Voters in California this week said they do not want elected officials to shift new transportation revenue away from transportation.
Proposition 69 on the statewide ballot was approved on Tuesday, June 5, by a 4-to-1 margin. Approval is touted to assure revenue raised through a 2017 transportation funding law will be used solely for transportation purposes.
The 10-year, $52 billion deal approved last year is described as benefitting state and local roads, trade corridors and public transit.
To pay for the work, vehicle taxes and fees were increased. The most notable changes are a 20-cent-per-gallon increase in the diesel tax and a 12-cent boost to the gas tax. The changes took effect Nov. 1, 2017.
Other vehicle fees in the deal went up Jan. 1, including a 4 percent increase in the sales tax applied to diesel purchases.
With the exception of the tax on diesel fuel sales, all tax and fee rates are also slated to be indexed to inflation.
A 2011 amendment to the state’s constitution already protects fuel excise tax revenue. Approval of Propisition 69 does the same for the increased diesel sales tax and a new annual vehicle fee.
The diesel sales tax and the new vehicle fee account for 38 percent of the total $5.2 billion raised annually. The fuel tax rate increases and other vehicle fees make up the other 62 percent.
The constitutional amendment, however, does not apply the diesel sales tax to roads. Instead, the revenue will be routed only for mass transportation and rail systems.
Not covered by the amendment are truck weight fees diverted since 2011 for nonroad uses. The fees were not increased in the 2017 transportation funding law.
Critics said the ballot proposition was insulting. They point out that a two-thirds majority of the California Legislature voted a year ago for vehicle tax and fee increases for transportation improvements. Now voters were asked to tell legislators to only spend the money on that intended purpose.
Supporters said approval of Proposition 69 should help fend off an effort expected on the November statewide ballot to repeal last year’s vehicle tax and fee increases.