By Marie Waldron
Even before the recent increase, Californians were paying some of the highest gasoline taxes in the United States. Despite this, our highways were consistently rated among the nation’s worst, and we were told a drastic tax increase would be necessary to fix the problem. But is that really true?
Well no, it’s not. Alternatives that would generate billions for transportation without raising taxes are on the table. My legislation from last legislative session would mandate that all transportation monies actually be used for transportation.
Currently, billions of your transportation dollars are being funneled off to parks, boats and other non-road uses. If we can ensure that fees and taxes paid by transportation system users are actually dedicated to fixing our roads, we can devote major funding to relieving traffic congestion without increasing taxes.
So where would the money come from? To start, transportation funding would be streamlined by removing regulatory red tape that increases costs by slowing street repairs. Accountability would be improved by expanding audits for major transportation projects to make sure we’re getting maximum bang for our transportation tax buck. Revenue sources would include billions from motor vehicle sales and use taxes, existing vehicle insurance taxes, and from the return of truck weight fees, miscellaneous transportation revenues, Caltrans efficiencies, and more.
All funds would be distributed directly to transportation projects, including billions for local streets and roads, for new highway capacity and traffic relief projects, as well as for maintenance and other needs.
Passage of Senate Bill 1 last year increased vehicle registration fees and fuel taxes by 12 cents per gallon for gasoline and 20 cents for diesel, with most “highway lane-capacity-increasing projects” strictly prohibited. Much of that funding is earmarked for non-highway projects including parks and apprenticeships, with no guarantee that any of the money must be spent on roads. That is why we can cut taxes and use the money as the legislature promised.
As always, I support cost-effective proposals to maintain and improve state highways, without adding to the excessive tax burden on California’s long-suffering drivers.
Marie Waldron, a Republican representing the 75th Assembly District in North San Diego County, is the Minority Floor Leader.
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