California law endorses tapping highway message signs for road revenue

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/5/2018

As voters throughout the state of California prepare to cast ballots on Tuesday on issues that include whether to nix a 10-year, $52 billion transportation funding deal, a new law could help the state cover some transportation expenses.

As of Nov. 1, 2017, the diesel tax increased by 20 cents and the gas tax was raised by 12 cents. The 1-year-old law also raised other vehicle fees as of Jan. 1. The fee increases include raising from 4 percent to 5.75 percent the sales tax applied to diesel purchases.

The tax and fee increases have been touted by Gov. Jerry Brown as a means to help the state address a $130 billion backlog in deferred road maintenance.

To further eat into the funding gap, the governor recently signed into law a bill to convert the state’s signage definition from static signs to include digital billboards.

A legislative analysis indicates the plan could raise $500,000 annually for each billboard classified as a digital billboard. The revenue could be applied for road work in the state.

Previously AB3168, the new law also clarifies and limits what can be considered as a landscaped highway. The change allows existing billboards to be relocated along highways.

The digital billboards also would be taller than existing billboards.

State and federal law are set up to protect landscaped areas along highways. Changes to allow affected digital billboards in the Golden State also would require federal approval.

Failure to enforce federal law could result in the loss of 10 percent of federal highway funds. California receives $3.5 billion annually from the feds, which equates to the possibility of losing out on $350 million for failure to comply with the federal billboard rule.

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



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