“The roads are broken and they are getting worse and they are not going to get better unless we get a significant injection of money.” So says Governor Jerry Brown Jr of California, in reference to a new “Gas Tax” bill to raise funds from drivers to pay for repairs to the state’s roads.
Passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, the bill will give the state the mandate to raise gasoline prices by 12c per gallon, increase sales tax to 13%, and diesel tax by 20c per gallon. Plus there will be a new annual vehicle registration fee of between $25 and $75 depending on the value of the vehicle, and a flat fee of $100 for zero emission vehicles. It is hoped that this measure will raise $52 billion over the next ten years.
This is the first rise in vehicle taxes that California has approved for 23 years. As a result, the state faces a $130-billion backlog of repairs to its highways, bridges and local streets. So it was case of making increasingly higher levels of investment to repair a degraded system or invest now in the work need to create and maintain a good one. And although state officials estimate the tax package will cost the average motorist just $10 per month, naturally some people are unhappy about it.
The part of the bill that’s causing the most anger, especially among environmentalists, is the compromise with the truck industry that stops the state from forcing haulage companies to retire, replace or upgrade older trucks to lower-emission models, so allowing older vehicles to stay on the road for longer. Environmental campaigners challenged the provision, arguing it will only serve to exacerbate the existing poor air quality and the resulting health issues within high-traffic areas such as around ports, giant warehouses and airports. Senator Brown – who has in the past always portrayed himself as a champion of the environment – says that such a compromise is part of the give and take of politics.
But Adrian Martinez, an attorney for Earthjustice, disagrees. “Commercial truck emissions are one of the largest sources of pollution in areas with the dirtiest air, but the giveaway to truckers would undermine future mandates to deal with them”, he says.
Katie Valenzuela Garcia, co-chair of a committee that advises the California Air Resources Board on environmental issues, agrees. "Our communities cannot breathe,” she told the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, “and we thought that our right to breathe would be worth more than a few billion dollars in transportation improvements."
Opposition to the bill in committee came from Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), who argued the bill places too much of a burden on the state’s poor. “They're hurting those at the poverty level or below, which is right now the highest of any state in the nation,” Moorlach said. Check out the Armellini Logistics website at The Trucking Industry