For more than two decades, Transportation California has spearheaded efforts to protect and enhance funding for transportation infrastructure in the Golden State. Marshaling the resources of the construction industry, key labor organizations and the business community, Transportation California has established itself as the authoritative voice on transportation issues and the driving force behind key measures to promote infrastructure investment.
Despite the many successes of Transportation California and its allies over the past two decades, investment in transportation infrastructure falls woefully short of meeting basic needs to serve the State’s growing population and dynamic economy. Small incremental gains will not do the job. Substantial new revenue streams must be put in place and sequestered from the annual fiscal turmoil that plagues California’s budget process.
The Challenge Ahead
Transportation California has launched an intensive effort to educate public officials, opinion leaders and the motoring public about the consequences of inaction and the need to bring user fees up to the level where they can support rehabilitation of the state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. The logical source for new transportation revenues is user fees. Not counting the 2010 “gas tax swap,” which merely exchanged the State sales tax on gasoline for a comparable excise tax levy, the state gas tax has remained static at 18 cents since it was last raised in 1994. The gas tax would need to be increased by 8-cents per gallon just to catch up with inflation over this period. While there traditionally has been resistance to increasing the gas tax, the reality is that a 10-cent increase would cost the average motorist less than $5 a month. User fees, like the gas tax, ensure that those who use the system pay for it. A modest increase in another user fee, which would be collected like the Vehicle license fee (VLF), could raise $3 billion annually in new revenue. Cap and Trade fees generated from burning fossil fuel in cars and trucks could be dedicated to the maintenance and improvement of California’s transportation system. An assessment for miles driven also would begin to raise the money necessary to bring California’s transportation system into the 21st century.
The case for substantially increased user fees is compelling. The average motorist pays out upwards of $100 a month in repairs, wear and tear, reduced gas mileage and lost time because of congested, poorly maintained roads. The inability to move people, goods and services efficiently is undermining our economy. The Federal Highway Administration calculates that every dollar invested in transportation infrastructure produces $5.20 in benefits.
Making the Sale
Transportation California has been working for over two years to lay the groundwork for a major push to move forward for a new revenue source that will end hand-to-mouth funding and put the construction industry to work building the transportation system of the future.
There is growing consensus on the need to get transportation funding on a sound footing once and for all. It is imperative that we follow up on all fronts—building the strongest possible coalition, educating the public and convincing elected officials that action is imperative.
Our efforts to create new funds for transportation and prevent state borrowing of those funds have put Transportation California in the forefront of transportation advocacy. We have:
- Taken the lead in working for stable new revenue sources to fund California’s transportation needs
- Led the continuing effort to preserve transportation funding in the State Budget in the face of unprecedented fiscal crises in California. As a result, transportation infrastructure has fared better than virtually any major sector in avoiding cutbacks during the past five years
- Negotiated the 2010 “gas tax swap” which removed transportation from the General Fund and actually increased revenue for basic transportation programs
- Partnered with the California Alliance for Jobs to win overwhelming approval of Proposition 1A to safeguard transportation funds and Proposition 1B to provide more than $19 billion in bond money for transportation
- Taken the lead in passing Proposition 42 (sales tax on gasoline) to increase funds for transportation projects and spearheaded the Fund Prop. 42 Coalition.
- Passed Proposition 2, a measure which prevents diversion of gas tax funds to non-transportation purposes
- Led the fight for Proposition 192 to support earthquake retrofitting
- Supported passage of AB1012 to expedite delivery of transportation projects