The Truth About the Assembly Republican Transportation Plan: It Needs More Ronald Reagan

Published: Aug 31, 2015

Californians understand that a stable funding source is necessary to keep roadways and bridges in reliable, safe and good condition. As Ronald Reagan said when he signed the federal gas tax increase in 1983, “The cost to the average motorist will be small, but the benefit to our transportation system will be immense.” Unfortunately, Assembly Republicans instead propose to kick the can down a potholed road, and send the General Fund back into deficit. Transportation needs a permanent and stable funding plan—not more budget gimmicks and borrowing—to avoid the volatility of the past two decades.

The Assembly Republican plan would cost the General Fund at least $2 billion per year. It would require the General Fund, instead of vehicle weight fees, to pay debt service on bonds that funded hundreds of transportation projects throughout

California, even though Republicans and Democrats supported the use of weight fees for that purpose. These are the same weight fees that were supported by 69 Assemblymembers and 39 Senators from both parties that pay for the improvements along State Route 99 in the Central Valley, the new Gerald Desmond Bridge in Los Angeles, and the hundreds of other transportation projects state bonds are financing throughout California. They were right then and it’s the right policy now to fund transportation with user fees, not the General Fund. As Ronald Reagan reminded Americans in 1983, “When we first built our highways, we paid for them with a gas tax, a highway user fee that charged those of us who benefited most from the system. It was a fair concept then and it is today.”

When it comes to Cap and Trade, the Republicans opposed the program, but now want to use it for road repairs. They ignore the fact that Cap and Trade already provides more than $1 billion per year for transportation. Moreover, the law requires that investments result in quantifiable greenhouse gas emission reductions. That’s why the program has expanded public transit, clean vehicle technology, the development of clean and fast high-speed rail, and responsible growth policies to encourage housing Californians near transit and job centers. If Republicans really want to engage where Cap and Trade dollars go, they should start by supporting the program.

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