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1972 - Vasquez Rocks added to National Register of Historic Places [list]
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Commentary by Sharon Runner
| Friday, Jun 12, 2015
Sen. Sharon Runner

Sen. Sharon Runner

California’s transportation infrastructure is a key part of our economic growth and stability. Our state has over 175 thousand miles of public roads that allow goods to be transported up and down the state and, for almost all of us, provide a way to get to work every morning. Unfortunately, California is failing when it comes to taking care of these public roads.

Anyone who calls the Santa Clarita Valley home is well aware of this problem. The 5 Freeway, Santa Clarita’s connection to Los Angeles, is constantly in disrepair, filled with rough patches and often under construction.

According to a 2013 study by TRIP, a national transportation research group, 64% of the roads in the Los Angeles – Long Beach – Santa Ana area are in poor condition. The same study estimates drivers in the Los Angeles area pay an additional $832 a year in vehicle maintenance thanks to the quality of our roads.

There is no doubt about it, our roads are in bad shape. Everyone agrees this is an important issue, but the real question is how to fix it.

The problem is not lack of revenue; Californians pay more in gas taxes and transportation fees than any other state. In 2002 voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 42, which guaranteed the sales tax on fuel for motor vehicles is used for maintaining and expanding our roads, highways and bridges. In 2010, voters went one step further by passing Proposition 22, which states that transportation taxes cannot be diverted for non-transportation purposes.

However, despite these constitutional guarantees, the Legislature found a loophole that allowed them to use dedicated transportation dollars for unrelated purposes. Every year, more than $1 billion of transportation taxes and fees are diverted away from transportation projects and into the state’s General Fund.

That’s why Senate Republicans have developed a transportation funding plan that would allocate $2.4 billion in one-time funding and over $2.9 billion in ongoing funding back into our transportation funds without raising taxes even one cent, returning certainty and predictability to local transportation authorities for years to come.

As part of this plan, we introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA) 7, which will guarantee money collected for transportation purposes is actually used to fix our roads.

Specifically, SCA 7 would end the diversion of truck weight fees to the general fund, something that began in 2010 when the Legislature passed the confusing “gas tax swap,” freeing up approximately $1 billion.

It would also direct about $100 million of gas tax revenue being used for non-transportation purposes back to the State Transportation Improvement Program, Local Streets and Roads, and the State Highway Operation and Protection Program.

Additionally, since 2001 $3 billion in other various transportation funds have been loaned to the General Fund, but only $2 billion has been repaid. Currently, the remaining $1 billion will be repaid in small increments through 2026. Under SCA 7, the money would be paid back immediately, not 11 years from now.

The second part of the funding plan focuses on Cap and Trade revenue. I do not support the Cap and Trade tax, but drivers are already paying it at the pump to the tune of $1.9 billion a year. Like the logic behind SCA 7, if taxpayers are being forced to pay, the money should be used for transportation purposes. Our plan would also do away with the $500 million of Cap and Trade funds the Governor has proposed dedicating to High Speed Rail and instead use that money to repair our roads.

One thing is clear, to fix our crumbling transportation infrastructure we do not need to raise or create new taxes. Instead, we must institute policies to increase transparency and ensure the transportation dollars we already collect are actually used for transportation purposes. It is possible to rebuild our roads without reaching further into the pockets of already overburdened taxpayers.

 

Sharon Runner represents California’s 21st Senate District, which includes about two-thirds of the Santa Clarita Valley.

 

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