The more we delay, the more Californians pay.
Last week, CALCOG issued a joint support letter with the Self Help Counties Coalition for the main transportation funding bills in the Assembly (AB 1, Frazier) and Senate (SB 1, Beall).
This position is consistent with our membership in the Fix Our Roads Coalition that supports AB 1 and SB 1 with additional constitutional protections to ensure transportation funds can only be spent on transportation projects and fixing roads.
Their introduction is timely. California has not increased funding for transportation in 23 years. Road repairs receive only 50% of the funding in real terms that they received in 1994. And it costs eight times more to fix a road than maintain it (Caltrans, State of Pavement, 2015).
There is a backlog of $130 billion in needed repairs ($59 billion state highways; $73 billion local streets and roads). The poor condition of our streets and roads costs the average driver $762 annually. (National Transportation Research Group-TRIP, 7/15). As a result, CA drivers are paying $53.6 billion a year in additional car repairs, congestion delays, and traffic crashes due to poorly maintained roads. (TRIP, 8/16).
AB 1 and SB 1 are long-term transportation reform and funding packages that contain new revenues to make road safety improvements, fill potholes and repair local streets, highways, bridges and overpasses. Both bills would raise at least $6 billion annually, which is what is needed to make a dent in the maintenance backlog. Although not entirely identical, they share many commendable provisions:
- Accountability. SB 1 and AB 1 cut bureaucratic red tape to ensure transportation funds are spent efficiently. Both bills give more independence to the California Transportation Commission and establish an independent Transportation Inspector General to perform audits and increase transparency.
- Substantial Enough to “Right the Ship.” The revenues raised are substantial enough to reverse the investment backlogs and help restore roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure statewide.
- Fairly Apportioned. To assure that everyone pays a fair share, both AB 1 and SB 1 include a balance of taxes and fees so that no single group unfairly shoulders the burden.
- Restores Regional Investments in Mobility. $700 million in project cuts that has resulted from the fluctuations in revenues deposited into the State Highway Account by eliminating the gas tax swap instituted during the state's fiscal crises five years ago, returning half the weight fees, and indexing price based excise tax rate going forward.
- #Roads4AllModes. Good roads serve all transportation modes. But in addition, AB 1 and SB 1 both include specific funding sources for transit, active transportation, and goods movement.
But AB 1 and SB 1 should also be coupled with strong constitutional protections. CALCOG supports a constitutional amendment to protect new revenues to assure that they can only be used for road maintenance, improvement, and transportation projects. These new accountability requirements should move through the Legislature in conjunction with AB 1 and SB 1.
In addition, although SB 1 and AB 1 involve substantial sums, they are still not large enough to bridge the entire infrastructure funding shortfall. As a result, local transportation measures will continue to play a critical role in delivering an effective transportation system. As a result, the Legislature should pass for voter approval a measure that would lower the threshold for transportation measures to 55% similar to what was approved for school funding.
CALCOG greatly appreciates the long time and committed leadership of both Assembly Member Frazier and Senator Beall. They need our support so that California’s leaders will uphold their promise to pass a long-term, dedicated transportation funding package in early 2017 that includes additional funding for transportation, coupled with strong accountability reforms to ensure funds are spent fixing our roads.