Aside from housing, California families spend more on transportation costs than any other household expense. Drivers already feel the burden of some of the highest gas prices and gas taxes in the country, but as low- and middle-class Californians continue to be squeezed, the only solution offered by Democrats is to increase gas taxes and registration fees.
There is no doubt that California’s transportation infrastructure is in dire need of repair. Potholes need to be filled and commuters face insufferable traffic every day. The average Californian in a major metropolitan area spends three full days a year in unnecessary traffic due to poor road conditions. Democrats in the Legislature have proposed a plan that is almost entirely dependent on massive tax and fee increases. But there is a smarter, more responsible and fiscally prudent way to invest in fixing our roads.
Assembly Republicans have a plan – AB 496, the Traffic Relief and Road Improvement Act – built on three principles: working-class Californians should not unfairly shoulder the costs; all money collected from motorists must go to transportation; and bureaucratic red tape standing in the way of building new roads must be cut and streamlined.
Increases to gas taxes and vehicle fees hit poor people the hardest. Californians with lower incomes pay a larger portion of their paychecks for gas. They are also more likely to have longer commutes and drive less fuel-efficient vehicles. Any attempt to increase the gas tax would add to their burden. That’s why proposals by Democrats to raise gas taxes by 19.5 cents and diesel taxes by 17 cents per gallon, and registration fees by up to $65, should be a nonstarter.
The Republican plan includes no new taxes. Instead, it ensures money already paid by motorists goes toward transportation. That may sound like common sense, but the reality is that Sacramento has routinely raided transportation dollars for years, sending a large portion of transportation taxes to the general fund, where it can be spent on a variety of programs that have nothing to do with roads. The consequences have caught up to us, leaving a large deficit in transportation funding, and drivers are suffering.
Our plan dedicates $5.6 billion to our transportation needs from taxes and fees that motorists are already paying. It also repays another $2.2 billion in transportation funds that were raided by Democrats to balance budgets during the recession, but were never returned when the economy improved.
We also recognize that additional funding must come with accountability measures to ensure it is spent effectively. Our plan calls for new oversight over Caltrans spending, an independent Transportation Inspector General and audits for major transportation projects. With the billions that Californians spend on transportation, they deserve confidence that their tax dollars are used appropriately.
A final key difference in our plan is that it will put that money toward traffic relief. The Democrat’s proposals do not offer a dime to reduce gridlock or build additional lanes despite the massive additional taxes their plan imposes on every driver. In contrast, our plan dedicates 30 percent of its money to increasing road capacity and providing much-needed traffic relief.
Democrats have controlled California for years and claim to be proud of their achievements. What have they achieved? Growing potholes are damaging cars, traffic jams have workers stuck for long commutes, and Californians are paying the highest gas taxes in the nation.
Assembly Republicans believe Californians deserve better. Our honest and fair plan will ensure transportation dollars are actually invested in our transportation system. California can maintain and expand its transportation infrastructure with the money it already has and without saddling hardworking families with more regressive taxes.
Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, is the Assembly Republican leader. He can be contacted at Assemblymember.Mayes@assembly.ca.gov. Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, is the Assembly vice chair of transportation. He can be contacted at Assemblymember.Fong@assembly.ca.gov.