Bill to hike California's fuel tax defeated, but may rise again

| 4/11/2003

SB541, a bill that would raise the fuel tax in California each year to adjust it for inflation, was defeated 4-3 in the Senate Transportation Committee April 1, according to the legislative information Web site. However, the committee has decided to reconsider the bill and vote on it again, according to a spokeswoman at the Legislature.

If the bill passes in the Transportation Committee this time, it still has several hurdles to jump. It will also have to pass the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, and, under the California Constitution, it must pass the full chamber, as well as the House, by a two-thirds vote.

Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Martinez, the bill's primary sponsor, told The San Diego Union-Tribunethe bill would help the state's ailing transportation budget. A Senate analysis quoted by the newspaper indicated that if the tax had been adjusted for inflation since it was put in place in 1957, it would now be 32.5 cents a gallon, not its current level of 18.4 cents.

However, Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Northridge, told the newspaper more money was not the problem.

"The problem is that the ample revenues the state receives are not being used to build highways," he said. 

Republican support is considered necessary to have enough votes to pass the bill, The Union-Tribune reported.