California $15 billion road funding plan moves forward

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A five-year, $15 billion plan moving forward at the California statehouse is billed to restore the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee voted to advance a proposal to raise revenue for infrastructure through a fuel tax increase. The bill, SB16, includes rerouting certain truck fees to help pay for much-needed road work.

Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said the state “must act now” to provide more resources for state and local roads.

“Senate Bill 16 solves a crisis that threatens our deteriorating streets and highways,” Beall said in a news release. “California faces a $59 billion backlog in deterred maintenance that will grow by billions every year. Our cities and counties have a backlog of $40 billion in repairs.”

Beall said he understands his bill will not solve the state’s transportation funding needs. However, he said it would buy lawmakers time to come up with a long-term solution.

Specifically, Beall’s bill would increase the state’s excise tax on fuels by 10 cents for gas and 12 cents for diesel.

California already claims the second highest fuel tax rates in the nation with the gas rate set at 47.5 cents and the diesel rate set at 37.5 cents.

Truck weight fees would also be increased to help pay for road and bridge repairs.

The fees are supposed to be routed to the state’s highway account, but for the past five years lawmakers have used the revenue to pay bond debt.

Other revenue enhancers included in the bill would increase vehicle license fees by 0.07 percent annually over five years, raise vehicle registration fees by $35, and subject zero-emission vehicles to an annual $100 fee.

In addition, the bill includes a requirement that all revenue would be used solely for road and bridge work, and for improving freight mobility at ports.

Mayors around the state tout the millions of dollars that would be directed for local road projects.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the bill would make his city eligible for $20.7 million for repairs and repaving projects.

“San Jose has over 2,400 lane miles of streets and nearly two-thirds of them are at the point where they may require expensive repairs,” Liccardo stated. “I support SB16 because it will improve the quality of life for the people of San Jose.”

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate. If approved there, it would move to the Assembly.

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

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