SACRAMENTO – Last night on a party-line vote, the Senate’s majority party rejected legislation co-authored by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) to repair California’s deteriorating roads without higher taxes. Yet hours earlier, the majority party voted for a bill that Caltrans estimates could cost taxpayers an additional $54 million annually.
“As someone who once worked at Disneyland as a young girl, I sometimes feel like I’m working in Fantasyland in Sacramento seeing the warped transportation priorities of the majority party,” said Bates. “We all agree that California’s roads are in bad shape and in need of repair, yet when Republicans presented a plan to fix our roads without higher taxes, the majority party rejected it. To make things worse, the majority party passed a bill the same day that will increase transportation costs. It makes no sense.”
Senate Bill X1 2 (Huff), co-authored by Bates, would have shifted $1.9 billion in cap-and-trade taxes generated through the sale of gasoline away from funding high-speed rail and instead on repairing roads, highways and bridges. Senate Bill X1 2 failed on a 3-9 vote in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Development Committee.
Hours before Senate Bill X1 2 was rejected, the Senate’s majority party approved Assembly Bill 219 (Daly) without Republican support. The bill expands the definition of “public works” to include the hauling and delivery of ready-mixed concrete in order to trigger prevailing wage requirements for public works contracts. Organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce and California State Association of Counties opposed AB 219 because it would increase transportation costs. The bill would also add 28 employees to Caltrans to administer prevailing wage mandates, at a time when the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 positions.
Furthermore, the majority party will likely approve a contract next week negotiated by Governor Brown’s administration that grants a seven percent raise to the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG), a union representing Caltrans engineers. This raise will again add to the state’s transportation costs.
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that recent and upcoming moves by the majority party are designed to fuel the narrative that higher taxes are ‘needed’ to repair our roads,” said Bates. “Californians should take into account what happened yesterday the next time Sacramento pleads poverty and demands more of our hard-earned money.”
A poll released yesterday by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that most Californians oppose higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees.