Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Labor, business and local governments groups to put forward roads funding plan

Workers work on a section of U.S. Highway 50 in 2014. A coalition of local governments, unions and business groups will put forward a transportation funding plan Monday.
Workers work on a section of U.S. Highway 50 in 2014. A coalition of local governments, unions and business groups will put forward a transportation funding plan Monday. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Whether the Legislature’s special sessions on transportation and healthcare yield any substantive policy changes will be among the dominant plot lines once lawmakers return from their summer recess to begin the final weeks of the 2015 session.

Interests with a stake in better roads will put forward their principles this morning. The approach includes higher taxes on gas and diesel fuels and higher vehicle fees to generate an estimated $6 billion in additional money for state and local road maintenance and improving corridors that enhance trade, such as those to ports.

The coalition includes labor unions, local government groups, and influential business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, that typically are skeptical if not opposed to tax proposals.

Jim Earp, a member of the California Transportation Commission and executive consultant to the labor-management California Alliance for Jobs, said proponents hope today’s proposal will help shape a special session road funding bill. Yet he acknowledged it will be a difficult task in a Legislature that hasn’t approved a broad-based tax increase of any type since 2009, and those were temporary.

“I don’t think there’s anything in here that nobody’s heard of before,” Earp said of the group’s proposal. “At the end of the day there’s no way to talk about a solution without some new revenue. I think that there are people on both sides of the aisle who are looking at what a vote like that is going to mean to them politically.”

Added Matt Cate, executive director of the California State Association of Counties, another member of the coalition: “I don’t think you’ll see on Monday that we think we have the golden ticket that addresses everyone’s concerns.”

The plan follows existing legislative proposals in the transportation special session, including bills by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, and Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

OFFSHORE DRILLING: Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, will push her plan to ban new offshore drilling at another press event today in her district. Senate Bill 788 was prompted by the Refugio oil spill, which affected Jackson’s constituents.

Jackson proposed a similar measure last year – that one died in an Assembly floor vote after what Jackson spokeswoman Lisa Gardiner called “significant opposition from the oil industry.”

Jackson’s bill is now waiting in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and she hopes the idea will get another try on the floor this year.

HONORARY ROAD: Various dignitaries, including California state controller Betty Yee and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, will join to rename part of the Sloat Boulevard portion of state Highway 35 in San Francisco the John Burton Highway. Burton, a former state and federal lawmaker from California, is the chair of the California Democratic Party.

VIDEO LOOKBACK: Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown admonished national Republicans, saying, “California’s burning: What the hell are you going to do about it?”

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, who turns 58 today.

Andrew Holzman: 916-326-5545, @andrewlholzman

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