California bill would suspend fee-for-call boxes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/4/2012

If a California state lawmaker gets his way, collection of a vehicle fee-for-call boxes along San Diego freeways would be suspended.

A $1 fee is tacked on to registration fees for vehicles in San Diego County to help support the program, which is intended to aid stranded motorists.

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, I-San Diego, wants to stop collection of the fee for the roadside yellow call boxes. He said the change is needed because the outdated program has amassed much more money than it needs.

Fletcher, who is also a San Diego mayoral candidate, said the San Diego Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies – or SAFE – has built up a reserve of $12.8 million.

“This legislation will bring oversight and accountability to a program that has abused taxpayer funds for too long,” Fletcher said in a statement. “It will ensure the continued safety of our motorists, provide needed funds to our cities, and save taxpayers money.”

Specifically, the bill would suspend SAFE funding. Collection of the $1 fee would be put on hold for four years and more than $9 million in reserves would be divvied among 18 local governments for police and fire protection.

The authority could keep as much as $4 million for operations, which is expected to get them to 2016. In the meantime, they would be responsible for developing a long-range plan that would include assessing the number of boxes needed, the location of boxes with the highest and lowest volumes of calls, and the viability of the call boxes.

“San Diego taxpayers deserve a break,” Assemblyman Marty Block, D-Bonita, stated. “Funding a largely obsolete agency with precious dollars has got to stop. Investing already collected revenues to enhance public safety makes sense.”

The bill – AB1572 – is in the Assembly Transportation Committee. It is scheduled for committee discussion on April 16.

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

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