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1983 - Armed robber taken out at Alpha Beta supermarket on Lyons [story]
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Commentary by Assemblyman Scott Wilk
| Saturday, Aug 15, 2015

scottwilk_mug2013I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: The state Legislature should budget its money like every household throughout the state. It only makes sense.

This past June, the Legislature passed the largest general fund budget in state history at $115 billion. Many government programs saw increased funding.

While these programs might be worthy of increases, I am disappointed that the biggest budget in California history completely ignored transportation.

The only funding increases for transportation went to high-speed rail. Don’t even get me started. Despite a $4 billion budget surplus, there were no funding increases for transportation infrastructure projects.

What makes this so troubling is that during Gov. Brown’s State of the State address, he admitted California has a $59 billion road and bridge maintenance and construction deficit.

Immediately after the budget signing, Brown called two special sessions of the Legislature to address the shortfall in transportation and health care funding. These sessions will run concurrently with our regular legislative session, which is slated to end Friday, Sept. 11.

Could you imagine if the parents of a family paid all their bills but the mortgage, and then asked the rest of the family members to find a way to come up with the extra cash? It wouldn’t happen. That priority would be funded first, and they’d find another area to trim.

I believe Brown is taking a page from former Louisiana Gov. Huey Long’s budgeting playbook, which purposefully doesn’t fund items the people value so they will insist on higher taxes to pay for these needed services.

pumpinggasolinegastaxBrown is abusing this budget gimmick right now. By ignoring transportation funding in the state budget, he is creating an artificial crisis. Brown wants to increase public pressure by claiming the only way to fund our roads is by raising taxes.

Ever since the governor declared a special session, most of the transportation proposals that have been proposed are dependent on raising taxes.

Californians cannot afford higher taxes, especially when we already pay close to 61 cents per gallon in gas taxes – the fourth-highest rate in the nation. Shouldn’t high gas taxes result in some of the best roads and highways in the nation?

One thing is clear: We don’t have to raise taxes to fund our roads and highways. Recently, I joined with my Assembly Republican colleagues to find a solution. We introduced a 9-point plan addressing California’s transportation needs and how to fix our crumbling roads and highways – without raising taxes.

Our plan focuses on using existing funds for their intended purposes and not depositing them into the general fund. Cap-and-trade created a “hidden gas tax” that raised taxes on gas by an estimated 12 cents per gallon. Rather than spend this money on high-speed rail, it should go toward repairing our roadways, since that’s where the money is generated. The same goes for vehicle weight fees that truckers pay for highway maintenance.

Due to Sacramento’s sleight-of-hand, more than $1 billion annually has been spent on unrelated programs. That money needs to be spent on actually maintaining the roads those vehicles use.

We can also stretch our transportation dollars to the fullest through reforms. One idea encourages the use of public-private partnerships that help keep transportation project costs low. Caltrans has a nearly $1 billion construction project in the Newhall Pass. The initial engineering and environmental work was done through a public-private partnership that saved both time and money. It allowed the Santa Clarita Valley to leap over other projects in the state Transportation Project Plan.

We can also make Caltrans more efficient by reducing complicated government bureaucracy and consolidating 3,500 jobs that have been identified as duplicative – saving the state $500 million annually.

Streamlining the state’s environmental laws for highway projects would also help by allowing projects throughout the state to start construction much faster, getting projects moving and getting our roadways fixed, which will help reduce congestion and emissions.

There are different alternatives to accomplishing our transportation needs, but another tax isn’t one of them. The plan mentioned above proves we can start investing in transportation infrastructure and increase funding for roads and highways without putting the burden on overtaxed Californians. Sacramento can solve this problem; invest in our transportation future by making it a top budget priority.

 

Scott Wilk represents the 38th Assembly District, which encompasses Simi Valley, the northwestern San Fernando Valley and most of the Santa Clarita Valley.

 

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1 Comment

  1. CG says:

    Thank you Mr Scott Wilk for speaking the truth about what Brown and others are doing. We need more elected officials like yourself in office to represent the will of the people. I suspect the self serving liars and thieves will be voted out of office soon as the citizens of California have had enough. Your honest commentary is greatly needed and truly appreciated.

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