Capitol Alert

Transportation officials warn of plunging road funding

Traffic on a dangerous roadway, November 1, 2004.
Traffic on a dangerous roadway, November 1, 2004. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

One day after Gov. Jerry Brown renewed his call for billions of dollars in new funding to repair dilapidated roads throughout the state, the California Transportation Commission moved to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers to approve a deal.

The commission said Friday that it has reduced estimated funding available for the state’s transportation program by $754 million over the next five years.

It called the action “the largest scaling back of the state’s transportation program since the creation of the current funding structure nearly 20 years ago.”

“What this means is that almost every county in California that relies on this source of funding for projects that improve traffic and air quality will have to cut or delay projects indefinitely,” the commission’s Lucy Dunn said in a prepared statement. "The commission adopted the most optimistic scenario we could make in good conscience, in the hope agreement will be reached on a number of reforms and new funding increases currently under consideration by the Legislature. But failing that, I fear we will be faced with even more Draconian cuts next year."

Since the state’s gas tax last went up in 1994, revenue as declined as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient, leaving billions of dollars in unfunded maintenance.

Brown is seeking a mix of taxes, fees and other revenue to fund road repairs throughout the state. But increasing taxes would require at least some Republican support, and Brown failed last year to broker an agreement.

Republicans remain hesitant.

Following Brown’s State of the State address on Thursday, Senate Republican leader Jean Fuller of Bakersfield said that given the increasing amount of revenue California is taking in, “it seems a little premature to fix the newest problems with new taxes.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders