Tax Reform

AP California News
By Femit Nirappil and Judy Lin
Associated Press
June 29, 2015 – 2:37 PM EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Legislature is holding two special sessions this summer to tackle long-vexing funding shortfalls in the state’s transportation and health care programs. But talk of targeted tax increases has prompted political hand-wringing.

At issue in the sessions ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown is how California should pay billions of dollars for needed road and highway repairs as well as funding Medi-Cal, the state’s medical insurance program for the poor. Medi-Cal now provides coverage to one in three Californians.

There’s no set deadline for reaching deals. Lawmakers plan to take up the issues separately.

Brown, a Democrat, had pledged in his 2010 campaign to take tax increases to the ballot but says he didn’t make a similar promise during his re-election campaign.

“We’ll have to leave that as an open question,” he said.

Republicans question that logic.

“The contract didn’t disappear just because he got elected the second time,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-San Dimas.

Voters aren’t likely to revolt against targeted tax increases because the state’s economy has improved and many see roads in poor condition, said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

Lawmakers of both parties agree the state’s transportation tax structure is out of date. They can’t keep relying on a gas tax that hasn’t been increased in 20 years and lets thousands of electric car drivers off the hook for maintaining the roads they drive on.

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