Transportation funding faces problems in California

| 9/19/2007

A variety of transportation projects face an uncertain future in California.

Some are blaming the problem on the redirection of $1.3 billion of the fuel sales tax revenue from local transportation agencies to balance the state’s general fund.

Roger Snoble, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said if other budgets continue to swipe transportation money it would be difficult to pay for needed road and transit projects, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In recent years, the governor and state legislators have reached into the state’s per-gallon fuel tax and the separate sales tax applied to fuel to balance the budget.

Opponents of the diversion of funds say the activity has led to worsening congestion because the state has fewer dollars to put toward road and mass transit improvements.

An effort to put a stop to the practice of dipping into the transportation budget for other uses was approved by voters last November. They also authorized the use of nearly $20 billion in transportation bonds during the next 30 years to ease the state’s traffic woes.

Since then, local transportation officials have accused state lawmakers of using the bond money to backfill cuts confronting transit agencies that were anticipating revenue from the sales tax on fuel.

Snoble told the Times that it amounts to stealing from transportation to balance the state budget.

The $1.3 billion funneled to the general fund is used to pay off bonds for completed rail projects, repay the state highway program and help school districts run school buses.

Transportation officials warn of the consequences of continued siphoning from roads. They point to construction costs that have increased by 45 percent during the past three years and fewer federal dollars available for transportation projects.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor