The Gas Tax hike goes into effect tomorrow

With the new Gas Tax hikes going into effect tomorrow, we are trying to raise awareness this week as to what is happening and why it matters. It's a good opportunity to re-visit an insightful Op-Ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle, written by Bay Area Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, on the matter:

GOP offers alternative to Democrats transportation plan
SF Chronicle, April 4th, 2017


Bay Area drivers know all too well how desperately we need to improve our transportation infrastructure. Roads and bridges are crumbling. Despite this, transportation has not been a priority.

Although state spending increased by $9 billion over the last two years alone, and $36 billion over five years, not one additional dime of that increased spending has gone toward transportation. Worse, the Legislature has raided billions in transportation funds year after year. This needs to change.

The governor and legislative leadership believe the solution to our transportation problem is to raise gas taxes by 70 percent, and that tax increase will grow automatically in future years without any voter or legislative input, and with no limit to how high the increase can go. Their proposal also raises vehicle registration fees by 47 percent to 330 percent, depending on the value of your car. These increases come with no real reforms for how to spend your dollars more wisely, as you deserve.

While their proposal includes a constitutional amendment to require new transportation taxes be spent on transportation projects, it still allows the Legislature to raid the existing transportation revenue streams for unrelated projects. It is unacceptable that transportation funds collected by the state from you can be swept into the general fund for spending completely unrelated to transportation.

The tax and fee increases will also disproportionately burden low-income and middle-income families and individuals. Transportation expenses are the second-highest household cost for working families — higher than food and health care. When working families pay more for transportation than any household expense besides housing, they will feel the pain of any cost increase right away.

California deserves better from our elected representatives. My colleagues and I have introduced a responsible funding proposal as an alternative to raising taxes once again on Californians. The Traffic Relief and Road Improvement Act (AB496), has three guiding principles:

• no tax increases

• transportation-related revenue should fund only transportation

• raises the amount of road repair projects Caltrans can bid out to private contractors to get more out of each dollar

<extra_leading class="macro" name="extra_leading" displayname="extra_leading">The bill provides $5.6 billion annually — more than the governor’s proposal — for transportation and transit improvements without raising taxes or fees. It dedicates billions of dollars Californians are already paying (such as vehicle sales taxes and truck weight fees) to roads and transit. Our plan also includes an aggressive program to relieve congestion, devoting 30 percent of its funding to expanding road capacity and getting drivers out of traffic.

We also understand that extra funding will not be as effective without making sure it is spent appropriately. Our plan establishes a transportation inspector general, adds accountability measures and reforms to Caltrans spending, and requires independent audits for major transportation projects, including high-speed rail. I have also authored a complementary measure, AB1363, to ensure all transportation revenues go to transportation projects.

It’s time to do something meaningful for transportation, but sticking working families with the bill for decades of fiscal mismanagement and misplaced priorities is wrong. We have offered a valuable alternative to the Democrats’ infrastructure funding proposal that will give California drivers the roads and transit they deserve. It’s time to fix our roads, responsibly.

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, represents portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.