Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
September 22, 2016 – 7:00 PM

There are few things more fundamentally important to life in contemporary California than transportation and housing, and both are in crisis.

Our once-vaunted highway and roadway system is literally crumbling as Californians rack up nearly a billion miles of vehicular travel each day.

Meanwhile, vital maintenance projects are stalled, some for decades, due to a lack of money even though Californians are paying the nation’s highest user fees and taxes.

California overbuilt housing during an insane bubble, but when it burst, construction ground to a near-halt.

However, the state’s population continued to grow by about 300,000 people a year, and although construction has increased in recent years, it still falls short of demand, pushing costs sharply upward. Those costs are the major factor in California’s having the nation’s highest poverty rate.

Given those harsh realities, one would think that Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators certainly would’ve made the transportation and housing crises their highest priorities for the 2014-16 legislative session.

Oh, they did talk about them – a lot. But when the session adjourned on Aug. 31, they had done virtually nothing.

Brown’s very modest – woefully inadequate, in fact – plan to shore up roadway maintenance went nowhere.

Its tax increase element would require a two-thirds legislative vote, and weeks of negotiations aimed at securing support from at least a few Republican legislators stalled. Brown’s pledge to kick in some funds from cap-and-trade auctions of carbon emission allowances faded as recent auctions generated almost nothing.

This month, a seemingly influential coalition of business and labor groups and local governments pleaded with Brown and legislative leaders to quickly reconvene the special session on transportation.

To read expanded column, click here.