Lawmakers introduce amendment to stop diversion of California road money

| 1/7/2005

A constitutional amendment to end diversions of California highway money to other uses has been introduced in the state’s General Assembly.

The new amendment, ACA4, was introduced by Assemblyman George Plescia, R-La Jolla. It would close a loophole in current law that allows the money to be diverted.

A ballot measure approved by nearly 70 percent of the state’s voters in 2002 mandated that California could not divert the funds away from transportation except in an emergency. Proposition 42, as the measure is known, requires a two-thirds vote of the state’s Legislature to move the money elsewhere.

However, despite the amendment, highway money diversions have already totaled $2 billion, according to an analysis by the Keston Institute for Infrastructure at the University of Southern California. And a report in The Sacramento Bee indicated those diversions could include another $1.4 billion in the next year.

“Like most states, California is in a budget crisis,” Keston Institute officials said in an executive summary. “We are struggling to supply urgently needed services with diminishing revenues. As in many states, California’s transportation funds are being cut to fund other needs.”

That has led to a number of public figures calling for an end to the diversions.

“My hunch is the average San Diegan doesn’t have a clue that the Legislature is robbing these dollars,” Gary Gallegos, executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, told Copley News Service.

“Our roads are now Third World roads,” Bob Balgenorth, a state building trades official on the California Transportation Commission, told The Bee.

“It’s time to stop using Proposition 42 as a piggy bank,” Robert Balgenorth, president of the California Building & Construction Trades Council, said in the Copley report. 

The new amendment was introduced last month, and could be heard in committee the first time this week.

The measure has already picked up some significant support. The Southern California Association of Governments announced Jan. 6 that it would support the amendment.