Several ballot questions in California would fund transportation

| 10/24/2006

The November statewide ballot in California has two initiatives on it that would affect transportation funding. Several counties in the state also will decide on transportation-related efforts.

Propositions 1A and 1B were placed on the statewide ballot by the California Legislature.

According to the legislative analyst's summary of Proposition 1A, it would not have any revenue or cost effect. The initiative proposes to authorize further protections to ensure that state fuel taxes are spent on transportation.

In 2002, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 42 requiring fuel pump sales tax revenues to be used solely for transportation. However, that law allows the governor and state lawmakers to divert the money in the case of a fiscal emergency.

Next month's ballot initiative would limit the number of times lawmakers could dip into those revenues for the state budget and require them to repay the money within a few years.

Proposition 1B, unlike 1A, would cost the state about $20 billion during the next 30 years. In return, revenue would be earmarked throughout the state for traffic mitigation, road repairs, safety improvements, ports, airports and rail.

Traffic mitigation work would get $11.25 billion. Public transportation would receive $4 billion, goods movement and air quality would receive $3.2 billion and safety and security improvements would receive nearly $1.5 billion.

Ballot questions in several counties also will focus on transportation funding.

Voters in Fresno County will decide whether to extend a half-cent sales tax for transportation set to expire in 2007. Measure C would raise $1.7 billion through 2027.

A similar question will be asked to voters in Orange County. Measure C would extend by 30 years a half-cent retail transaction and use tax. The tax is set to expire in 2011. If extended, an estimated $11.8 billion would be generated for transportation improvements and traffic congestion relief in the county.

Voters in Kern and Santa Barbara counties will decide whether to authorize tax increases to benefit transportation work.

In Kern County, passage of Measure I would allow a half-cent sales tax increase over 20 years. It would generate an estimated $1 billion during that time to relieve congestion, improve traffic safety, and match federal and state transportation funding.

The ballot in Santa Barbara County will include a question of whether to authorize a 30-year, quarter-cent sales tax increase. Measure D would fund an estimated $1.6 billion during that time for traffic congestion relief that would include increased bus service and a commuter rail line connecting Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Early voting in California started Saturday, Oct. 21. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Polls will be open from 11 a.m. PST to 8 p.m. PST on Election Day.

- Keith Goble, state legislative editor