The California legislature is scheduled to vote on a dramatic increase to the gasoline tax later this week. Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing hard for the $52 billion tax to help repair roads and other infrastructure. In the past week, he appeared in news conferences in Sacramento and Concord. He has also testified in at least two different committee hearings.

“When it comes to fixing roads that are falling apart, or that bridge down there in Monterey County that can no longer support a car, you got to do it now,” Brown said in a Wednesday (April 5) rally on the Capitol steps. “And if you don’t do it, it gets more expensive next year, and the year after.”

The bill needs 2/3 of both the senate and assembly to pass. It would increase the gasoline tax by $0.12 over three years (six cents in year one; three cents in years two-three). That would raise the current gas taxes from $0.278 to $0.398 per gallon, or a 43% increase. Federal taxes are at $0.184 a gallon. On top of that is the county sales tax, which is currently 7.975% in Fresno.

For diesel, the increase is 20 cents a gallon and a 4% increase on the sales tax (from 1.75% to 5.75%).

Vehicle license fees will also increase. Depending on the value of the vehicle, the fee will go up $25-$175. The state would also charge $100 a year for zero-emission (i.e. electric) cars.

SB 1, authored by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Asm. Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), is expected to raise more than $6 billion a year. The law calls for taxes to be re-evaluated every three years. The revenue will be placed in a specific fund for road maintenance and rehabilitation.

Tony Boren, the executive director of the Fresno Council of Governments says money is desperately needed to fix local roads. “We have such a deficit of funding for all our needed road repairs. We have aging transportation infrastructure that hasn’t been addressed appropriately for a number of years. The nature of the beast is that if you don’t address a need early, it gets more and more expensive over time. That is where we are at. If we don’t catch these repairs, right now, it’s just going to get drastically more expensive for the next 8-10 years,” Boren tells GV Wire.

The City of Fresno would benefit. CalTrans estimates the city would receive $119 million over ten years. Clovis would receive $24 million. The county would get its share too, with at least $255 million.

But, motorist GV Wire spoke with don’t care for paying more at the pump.

“I think it’s already been paid for. I don’t think we should be paying it again,” says Philip Williams of Fresno. “We have plenty of gas taxes that we per gallon already. (They) should have the work be done with the money already been applied to it.”

Joe Amader, who works at a Fresno energy company, shared similar thoughts while filling up his car near the airport. “Gas is already expensive. Paying more every time you fuel up hurts your pocket book. Everything is getting more expensive.”

According to the governor’s press office, in a ten year period the money would be spent on:

  • $15 billion for local road repairs
  • $15 billion for highway repairs
  • $7.5 billion to improve public transportation
  • $4 billion for bridge repairs

Also, funding sources include:

  • $7.3 billion by increasing diesel excise tax 20 cents
  • $3.5 billion by increasing diesel sales tax to 5.75 percent
  • $24.4 billion by increasing gasoline excise tax 12 cents
  • $16.3 billion from an annual transportation improvement fee based on a vehicle’s value
  • $200 million from an annual $100 Zero Emission Vehicle fee commencing in 2020.
  • $706 million in General Fund loan repayments.

The bill would also create new levels of accountability and relax some environmental standards for construction, known as CEQA, as Boren explains.

“Let’s say you are doing a guard rail on an existing state highway. Under SB 1, you won’t have to do an environmental review on the guard rail. It makes no sense. That area was environmentally assesses when they first built that highway.”

But that isn’t enough for Republican Valley Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia).  On a Facebook video, Mathis told his constituents, “We have money out there already that you are being charged for that Governor Brown has taken and put into the general fund. If he really wants to fix the roads and take care of you, he will put the money back where you voted for it to go and we’ll take care of you.”

Assemblyman Jim Patterson and Senator Andy Vidak, both Republicans, have also come out against it.

Democrat Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula says he is still studying the issue. Republican Senator Anthony Cannella has indicated conditional support.

A vote is expected Thursday.

[This story has been updated (April 5, 4:21p) to include a CalTrans link (above) regarding funding breakdown by area and the video below]:

The Fresno Chamber of Commerce released this video on their position against SB 1:

Contact David Taub

Phone: 559-492-4037 / e-mail

This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.

 

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