Republican legislators voice opposition to transportation tax

By Gina Ender

Last update: Friday, April 7th, 2017

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.

gender@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter as @ginaender

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Republican legislators voice opposition to transportation tax

Assemblyman Dante Acosta (left) and Senator Scott Wilk (right) make opening remarks at their joint public forum on March 30, 2017. Gina Ender/ The Signal

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.

gender@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter as @ginaender

About the author

Gina Ender

Gina Ender

Gina Ender is a journalist covering city government and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in February 2017. You can contact Gina Ender at gender@signalscv.com, 661-287-5525 or follow her on Twitter at @ginaender.

  • Ronald Williams

    It’s clear what the money is going to be used for is to fund Jerry’s bullet train. Since the feds cut the funding, this is the only way to get his pet project going.

    And the idiots in LA County also voted in Measure M, which adds 1/2 cent to your sales tax beginning July 1.

    • Ron Bischof

      The state and Governor are disingenuous about diversions, historical and future.

      http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/editorials/sd-brown-gas-tax-california-road-repairs-20170330-story.html

      • Jim de Bree

        Ron, I agree that the Governor et al are disingenuous when it comes to tax increases, however, George Skelton wrote an interesting column in the Sacramento Bee that was also published by the LA Times showing some additional details of the gas tax history.

        http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-skelton-transportation-plan-opposition-20170406-story.html

        Skelton’s piece needs to be read in the context of the article you cited.

        • Ron Bischof

          I read the piece and the points raised by Mr. Skelton are valid. I am of the opinion that the most legitimate way to pay for road maintenance is with use taxes.

          However, note the Governor didn’t keep his promise about going to the taxpayers about any future tax increases. And I don’t have confidence in the Democratic super-majority maintaining taxpayer protections because of the priorities they place on social engineering rather than governing for the benefit of CA citizens. Brown has only been a check on the ideologues running Sacramento. Do you think that will continue under the execrable Gavin Newsom?

          The current state of CA infrastructure such as roads, water transport/storage, etc. underscore my skepticism.

          As a long-time CA citizen and professional expert, I’m sure you note the untenable trajectory of CA fiscal management.

          • Jim de Bree

            Absolutely, we live in the People’s Democratic Republic of Taxifornia.

            I agree that the state if so far to the left that Brown is considered a fiscal conservative. However, his pet project, the choo-choo, is one of the most expensive boondoggles ever conceived by the state. I suspect it will die when he leaves office. A Governor Newsome would be a horrible fiscal result.

            When you refer to use taxes, I presume that you are referring to fees paid by those who use the roads rather than a sales and use tax. The most effective way of doing that is to require odometer readings when you renew your license and imposing a mileage based fee. Then you have to figure out how to pay for the usage by out of state travelers.

          • Ron Bischof

            The present form of use taxes are gas and registration fees.

            Miles would be fairer as it would encompass alternative powered vehicles and actual use of infrastructure. However, I’m leery of the impact to civil liberties because of what government tends to do with collected citizen data. Once it exists, it will be subject to subpoena for uses other than intended.

            What you suggest is a fair compromise to avoid electronic tracking as it’s only a summary of miles traveled.

  • Jack Weaver

    More taxes, in a State with already the highest Sales tax, highest Income tax, and highest gas tax. Hey CA government leaders: can I get some more taxes with my taxes please?

    • Jim de Bree

      Perhaps some fact checking is in order. In preparation for a future column, I have been doing some research on the rate of taxes paid in California compared to other states.

      Sales tax—there are two components state level tax and local additions. CA has the highest state level rate at 7.5%, but the average combined state and local rate paid in the state is 8.84% which ranks 8th. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington all have higher combined state and local rates. Washington does not have an income tax. In LA County we have one of the highest rates in the country because the county imposes a 2.5% sales tax, most of which was approved by voters.

      Individual Income tax—we have the highest tax rate in the country at 13.3% (which really translates into a 14% rate based on how the tax is computed). However, for households earning less than $75,000 the rate is actually lower than about half the states. California, by far, has the most progressive individual income tax rates in the country.

      Gas fuel tax—there are seven states with higher fuel tax per gallon. Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Washington. However, CA charges sales tax on the gas tax. Even considering this, the three states still have higher rates.

      Corporate income tax—California has the fifth highest rate. It also has a considerably broader base on which the tax is based, so it is difficult to determine which state has the highest effective rate. California has corporate tax rate of 8.84%. Four other states have rates of 9% or more.

      Property taxes—thanks to proposition 13, we do not have the highest property tax rates. However, since our property tax vales are so much higher than other partners of the country, the actual amounts of property tax paid by the typical household is comparable to other jurisdictions with lower rates. According to one study, the City of Los Angeles has the 33rd highest tax rate for major metropolitan areas in the country, but has the 6th highest amount of property tax paid by the average homeowner.

      Cigarette excise tax. Through March 30, 2017 CA was #37. The rate increased from 87 cents per pack to $2.87 on April 1, 2017. Currently, there are eight states with higher cigarette taxes. Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The overwhelming portion of the $2.00 increase is dedicated to paying Medi-Cal related costs resulting from illness resulting from the use of tobacco.

      • Jack Weaver

        I only stand corrected on the gas tax then. So we are now the _4th_ highest.

        The rest of my statements are in fact, true.

        Appreciate your research, but it only invalidates my original statement regarding gas.

  • Jack Weaver

    My wife and I talk quite often about leaving. Really the only issue we now have is that her parents and mine are nearby. At some point, retirement will become more of concern and I imagine they’ll be looking at places that don’t tax folks to solve problems. Then we won’t have any reasons to stay, and we’ll be joining a different kind of choo-choo train, one that leaves the state on a 1 way ticket. =)