Who’ll pay to fix roads?

Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors hold the key to whether Democrats can raise gas taxes or cre­ate new fees.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Chris Mege­rian chris.mege­rian@latimes.com Twit­ter: @chris­mege­rian

SACRA­MENTO — It’s un­usual for Repub­li­cans to wield much inf lu­ence in Cal­i­for­nia’s Capi­tol, but the brew­ing de­bate over fund­ing road re­pairs is an ex­cep­tion.

Repub­li­cans are ea­ger to help f ind money to f ix the state’s di­lap­i­dated roads, highways and bridges. And do­ing so is one of the rare is­sues on which votes from the mi­nor­ity party could af­fect the out­come.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers want to use a spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sion, called by Gov. Jerry Brown to ad­dress an es­ti­mated $ 59 bil­lion worth of road prob­lems, to raise gas taxes or cre­ate new fees. Gen­er­at­ing ad­di­tional rev­enue is im­pos­si­ble with­out sup­port from at least some Repub­li­cans be­cause it re­quires a two- thirds vote in the Leg­is­la­ture.

So far, Repub­li­cans are re­luc­tant to back any taxes or fees, and they’ve put for­ward their own plans to use ex­ist­ing funds for roads.

“Sacra­mento has ig­nored this prob­lem and mis­man­aged taxpayers’ funds for years, many years,” said Assem­bly­man Eric Lin­der ( R- Corona). “How can we pos­si­bly ask taxpayers to trust Sacra­mento with more of their hard- earned money?”

Assem­bly Repub­li­cans re­leased a $ 4.4- bil­lion pro­posal Mon­day; their Se­nate coun­ter­parts de­tailed a $ 3bil­lion blue­print last month.

Both sides want to use rev­enue from the cap- and­trade pro­gram, which charges fees to pol­luters and was re­cently ex­panded to in­clude trans­porta­tion fuel. In ad­di­tion, they want to tap ex­ist­ing fees on truck driv­ers, which were redi­rected to the gen­eral fund dur­ing the state’s bud­get crises.

Repub­li­cans in the Assem­bly also want to elim­i­nate 3,500 jobs at Cal­trans, the state trans­porta­tion agency, that leg­isla­tive an­a­lysts iden­ti­fied as un­nec­es­sary.

Thou­sands more va­cant po­si­tions across state gov­ern­ment would be cut as well, and all of the sav­ings would be put to­ward roads.

As the spe­cial ses­sion gets un­der­way, it’s still pos­si­ble that Repub­li­cans will sup­port some new rev­enue.

For ex­am­ple, Se­nate GOP leader Robert Huff of San Di­mas ex­pressed in­ter­est in a pro­posal from Sen. Jim Beall ( D- San Jose) that in­cludes a new an­nual $ 100 fee on own­ers of elec­tric cars, mak­ing up for the fact that they don’t pay any gas tax.

“Just be­cause they’re po­lit­i­cally cor­rect cars doesn’t mean we should sub­si­dize them at the ex­pense of ev­ery­one else,” Huff said.

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