By Meghan McCarty, July 10, 2015
Road repairs on the Pacific Coast Highway
Democrats and Republicans will soon present dueling proposals on how to close a $59 billion backlog of state roadway repairs.
The proposals come from a special joint session of the California Legislature convened earlier this month.
At the heart of the problem is two fold: rising construction costs
and the diminishing revenue from the gas tax as cars have become more
fuel efficient or gas-free. The rate hasn't been raised from 48.6 cents
per gallon since the early 1990s.
To pay for the needed repairs, Democrats are presenting several bills
that would increase revenue by raising gas taxes and registration fees
and charging an additional flat fee for electric vehicles - or charging
a flat road use fee to all drivers.
"It's a kind of spread the pain kind of approach," said Senator Jim Beall, who introduced one of the bills.
Republicans oppose any fees or tax increases.
"We do have an all time high general fund revenue and we should be
taking care of our roads with taxpayers existing contributions,"
said Assemblyman David Hadley from the South Bay.
He supports a plan
to pay for road fixes by diverting money from the state's controversial
high speed rail project and other projects - and using revenues from
the new Cap and Trade market intended to fund projects that will reduce
One thing both sides agree on: the gas tax in its current form is broken.
The state has commissioned a pilot
program to test the so-called road use fee that would charge people by
the mile instead of by the gallon. The California pilot has yet to get
to fully underway so it will likely be several years before the
legislature considers making the switch.
Critics have pointed out this approach might require the government to track our cars, which raises privacy concerns.
But California isn't the only state looking at revamping how to charge drivers for road repairs. Oregon has just launched a 5,000 car pilot program and 24 other states are looking into their own.