Our View: The high cost of fresh pavement

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Call them bribes or back-room deals, there’s no doubt California’s governor tossed aside any appearance of thoughtful democratic process last week as he rammed through the Legislature a gasoline tax and diesel sales tax hike, along with fee hikes.

The package of tax hikes is due to raise $52 billion over the next 10 years for California roads – so the governor says.

The taxes, which will most directly hurt the working poor and middle-class commuters of the state, will hike the price of gasoline by 12 cents a gallon and increase diesel excise tax through a complicated formula, all effective effective Nov. 1.

A vehicle fee of $25 to $175, depending upon the value of the car, will be added to the cost of registration beginning Jan. 1, 2018. And a $100 fee on electric cars takes effect in 2020.

To secure a victory for the unpopular tax hike, Gov. Jerry Brown pledged transportation funds for different projects around the state, bribes awarded to legislators who held out against a “yes” vote late on April 6, a self-imposed deadline just ahead of the Legislature’s spring break.

The Los Angeles Times says a billion dollars in tax money was lavished on hold-outs as leaders – Brown, Senate leader Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramont – drove for two-thirds legislative approval, ensuring the bill wouldn’t be back to bite them when the public was paying more attention.

Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes called the bill, SB1, “a deal so bad (Democrats) needed $1 billion in pork to pass it.”

Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, came away with the most booty, winning $400 million from Brown and Company during a late negotiating session at the governor’s mansion the night before the crucial vote.

Those funds, written into the proposed state budget, would extend a commuter rail line from the Bay Area to Cannella’s Central Valley district.

Runner-up is Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who for his vote gets a $100-million parkway to connect UC Merced to Highway 99.

And so on through the roster of votes until the governor could “buy” his two-thirds majority. Is the tax hike really needed with Californians paying $4.5 billion to $5 billion a year on fuel taxes? What’s happened to the money already set aside for road repair and construction?

Not the question. The question is what can your legislator get out of the governor. And for the most part, Republicans need not apply.

Many legislators turned their backs on responsible governing and let Brown play them against each other for the biggest toys, tossing aside all consideration of responsible financing like children at a carnival.

Sen. Scott Wilk points out in a Signal column published Friday that there’s no guarantee the money will even go to roads; efforts to write that assurance into the bill were rebuffed.

And the beat goes on in our supermajority state.


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