Gas tax passes State SenateBy: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
Just hours before the April 6 deadline, The California Assembly and Senate approved a plan late Thursday night that is going cost you a little more behind the wheel with a rise in both fuel and vehicle registration fees.
The 52.4 billion plan that was proposed by Governor Jerry Brown spans five year. It includes a 12 cent per gallon gas tax hike, increased vehicle registration fees and a $100 charge on emission free vehicles over ten years. The gas tax is a 43 percent increase.
Funds from the package will be used to fix roads, freeways and bridges in communities across California and possibly, Auburn. Of the $52 billion raised, $30 billion would be evenly divided between state and local jurisdictions.
Brown said the increase would come out to less than $10 a month for most drivers and would be offset by less vehicle repairs.
“Yes, it costs money. And if the roof in your house is leaking, you better fix it, because it gets worse all the time,” Brown said.
The $100 fee for emission vehicles is the first one the state has proposed and will be annual, since they currently don’t pay gas taxes that fund highway maintenance.
Registration fees would also have a variable fee, with owners of less expensive vehicles paying less, from $25 for vehicles worth less than $5,000 to $175 for vehicles worth $60,000 and above.
Currently, there is a $59 billion backlog in deferred state highway maintenance and $78 billion on local streets and roads.
An additional $4 billion will be allocated for state highway bridges and culverts. $7 billion will be divided half between expanding local public transit and mass transit and $1 billion will go to bicycle and pedestrian projects.
Republican lawmakers complained that money raised on transport taxes is siphoned off for other uses and that California has some of the highest gas taxes in the country.
However, there is a ballot measure in the package that would guarantee the money would go where it’s supposed to.
The plan drew opposition from many republican law makers, citing that California is already a state that carries a high tax burden. Concern was expressed that while the new fees will fund repairs, it will not be used for improvements such as adding lanes to overpopulated areas where congestion is already costing motorist in fuel consumption.
“We aren't taxing champagne and caviar here," said Senator Ted Gaines, of El Dorado Hills. "Transportation is a basic need to live and work and raise a family."
The evening vote to approve the followed a week of heavy campaigning by Brown and top legislative leaders. Additionally, contractors and construction unions blanketed area media advertising campaigns promoting the plan to the public and undecided lawmakers.
The increased prices at the pump and registration fees are slated to begin in November of this year.