State lawmakers consider new bill to increase gas tax for road repairs

Are you willing to pay about 12 cents more per gallon at the pump in order to help fund more than $130 billion in road repair backlog? (March 9, 2017)

Take a deep breath -- California lawmakers are still considering raising the tax on gas in order to fund repairs to roads and highways. 

California drivers in 2016 paid the fifth highest excise tax on gasoline in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. The Golden state was behind Hawaii (#4), New York (#3), Washington (#2) and Pennsylvania (#1). 

Here's how the gasoline is taxed in California (cents per gallon):

  • $0.278 State excise tax
  • $0.1033 Other state taxes
  • $0.184 Federal excise tax

= about $0.57 in total cents per gallon as of 2017, according to the American Petroleum Institute. 

Senate Bill 1 would increase the state excise gas tax by $0.12 over three years. The excise tax on diesel would more than double, going up by $0.20 per gallon from its current $0.16 per gallon. The diesel sales tax would also increase by 4 percent.  And vehicle registration fees would go up by $38. 

The bill would annually raise about $5.1 billion in new revenue to pay for deferred maintenance projects on state highways and local streets and roads, according to an analysis by the Senate Committee on Tranportation and Housing. The legislation also aims to improve California's trade corridors and transit system, including 

Drivers of zero-emission cars would need to pay a $100 annual fee, because having a fuel efficient car means those drivers are paying less in taxes at the pump.  

California hasn't increase its tax on gasoline since 1994, which highlights the political implications with raising taxes on voters. Lawmakers even conducted a "special session on transportation" last year to figure out how to finance the estimated backlog of $130 billion in state highway and local road repairs. 

Local government groups like the Califoria State Associate of Counties, the League of Cities and other regional partners have identified a $73 billion unmet maintenance need on local streets, roads and bridges. 

The extreme winter weather added damage to California's crumbling road and highways, but a lot of those major disasters will draw assistance from federal and state disaster funding.

"The real problem is -- and potentially a lot more costly problem -- is the fact that our entire system is approaching a point where we're going to have to have significantly higher levels of investment to repair a degraded system rather than to maintain one in good condition," an transportation analyst for the state's association of counties, Chris Lee, told lawmakers during a Wednesday committee hearing on SB1. 

That "special session on trasportaion" ended with no solution -- but moderate Democrats appear to be more willing to increase taxes on gas than before.

Democrats in California have a "supermajority" in both houses of the Legislature, meaning they have so many seats they don't need Republican support in order to approve a tax increase. But on some issues, moderate Democrats will come to the GOP side and help kill bills -- that happened in 2012, 

Moderate Democratic Asm. Jim Frazier has a bill similar to SB1 moving through the Assembly, and the office of  Asm. Jim Cooper of Elk Grove (co-chair fo the unofficial "Mod Dems") said he is willing to support a gas tax if it adequetly funds the transportation backlog and invests in improving public transit systems. 

SB1 is passed its third committee hearing this week. The bill is moving on to another committee before going to the floor for a full-vote by the Senate. It would need to pass the Assembly before moving on to the governor's desk to possibly be signed into law.

Lawmakers and the governor have set an April 6 deadline for crafting a plan to fund transportation repairs and maintenance needs -- which is right before legislators leave Sacramento for their week-long spring break. 

Copyright 2017 KXTV


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