Republican legislators voice opposition to transportation tax

Assemblyman Dante Acosta (left) and Senator Scott Wilk (right) make opening remarks at a joint public forum last March.

Governor Jerry Brown passed his $52 billion tax increase on transportation late Thursday night, but not without opposition from California Republicans.

Brown’s Senate Bill 1 aims to fix roads, repair bridges and fund public transit and trails by increasing taxes on gas and vehicle fees. Funds would be split between state and local governments.

California’s promised pothole-less roads will be a result of 12 cents per gallon of gas increase and an extra $100 cost for emission-free vehicles, among other increases. The governor said this would cost less than $10 per month for most drivers.

Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) voted against the increase, favoring the Republican plan he coauthored to dedicate $7.8 billion in already existing funds without raising taxes.

“SB 1 will punish my constituents and all but the wealthiest of Californians, those who can afford to live near where they work and who drive brand new, fuel-efficient vehicles,” Wilk said in his floor remarks. “Governor Brown promised that any future taxes would have to be ratified by a vote of the people, yet today we are asked to vote for the greatest tax increase in our state’s history without a vote of the people.”

Wilk cited statistics on commuters in his districts, saying 50,000 Santa Clarita Valley residents, 65,000 Victor Valley residents and 100,000 Antelope Valley residents and have lengthy commutes.

The Senator said 60 percent of the funds would go to road maintenance with Brown’s plan and brought up concern that SB 1 did not provide funding to expand lane capacity.

“Like earlier transportation funding mechanisms, there are zero guarantees the funding will remain with roads,” he said.

When he came into office in 2012, the state budget was $99 billion compared to the 2017 budget of $125.2 billion. Road funding has not been increased at all during this time, Wilk said.

Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) responded similarly on the tax increase.

“It’s disheartening to watch the supermajority of Capitol Democrats place the burden of their mismanagement squarely on the backs of the poor and middle class,” Acosta said in a statement. “There is clearly a huge disconnect between Sacramento Democrats and the people they are supposedly representing.”

Senate Bill 1 passed by 54-26 total votes between the Senate and Assembly. The Senate approved the measure 27-11, while the state Assembly struggled to get the last three votes needed for a two-thirds majority.

According to the bill, California will get $15 billion for highways, $4 billion for bridges and channels and $2.5 billion to reduce traffic on commuter routes. Local governments will collectively receive $15 billion for potholes, $7.5 billion for public transportation and $1 billion for walking and biking trails.

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