Schwarzenegger calls for end to road money diversions

| 5/12/2005

For the first time in three years, California will spend all of its transportation funds on transportation instead of using fuel tax money to prop up the state budget.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday, May 11, that he was proposing to restore the entire $1.3 billion to transportation for the 2005-2006 budget year.

“On Friday, I will present a budget for California that will … put more than $1.3 billion into transportation,” Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement. “This will allow us to move ahead with new projects that were approved for construction years ago and finish or expand current projects that have been stalled by the lack of funding.

“It’s time for California to build again in the cities, the counties and everywhere across our state.”

A 2002 ballot measure approved by nearly 70 percent of the state’s voters 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. Much of the diversions resulted from the state’s recent budget shortfalls. 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. 

Two bills in the state Assembly, ACA4 and ACA9, would put a ballot before California voters to end the diversions. Both measures are still under consideration. Schwarzenegger has indicated that he supports ACA4.