On Thursday, April 6, the California Assembly passed Senate Bill 1 by a 54-26 vote in an effort to raise $52 billion in taxes to repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the state. Earlier in the evening, the bill had passed through the Senate by a vote of 27-11. The proposal, should Gov. Jerry Brown sign it into law, would raise the funds over a 10-year period that will see a 43 percent increase in gas tax (rising incrementally to .12 cents per gallon by 2019) and an increase of 36 cents per gallon for diesel.
Further, vehicle owners will have to pay more per annual vehicle registration, ranging from $25 to $175 based on the value of the vehicle registered. The fees and taxes would increase yearly with inflation. Beginning in 2020, electric vehicles and other zero-emission vehicles will be charged a $100 annual fee.
In campaigning for the bill, Brown said that there exists a $59 billion backlog in infrastructure repairs needed throughout the state that have been deferred due to a lack of funds.
In 2018, California voters will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment requiring that the funds generated from SB-1 be used specifically for infrastructure repairs.
The bill was passed heavily along party lines. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblywomen Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, and Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, who all represent portions of Ventura County, voted in favor of the bill.
Limón says that the cost of gas and registration fees for an average family would increase by approximately $10 per month, much less than what they currently pay in annual automotive repairs due to potholes and bad roads, approximately $760.
“This is a sacrifice for our families, particularly for our low-income families, but I also think of the fact that if their wheel gets stuck in a pothole, that could be a $2,500 repair,” said Limón. “This was a hard choice to make, a hard vote, as far as where we’re going to be, but in the end I think the short-term sacrifice is worth the long-term gain for all of our families.”
Limón provided estimates indicating that Ventura County could receive over $53 million in funds for projects that would increase capacity for transit, highways and roads. Numbers prepared by Limón’s office show that Ventura is expected to receive an estimated $4.29 million annually for so-called “shovel-ready jobs”; Oxnard, $9.26 million; and Santa Paula, $1.39 million, to name a few.
Irwin says that “the additional revenue that comes from the infrastructure package will allow the region to make vital improvements to Highway 101, local roads and expansion of trucking routes near the port,” and that for every dollar spent on transportation infrastructure, the taxpayer saves $8.
“With the passage of this bill, projects critical to safety and our local economy can now be funded. I’ve received a commitment from the secretary of transportation and the governor on funding the Rice Avenue [rail crossing] overpass when final design plans are complete,” said Irwin. “Rice Avenue has been the site of three deaths in the past several years, including collisions with the Metrolink train. In addition to the significant safety issues, this location becomes a bottleneck for agricultural and port traffic, which results in more pollution in nearby communities. This fix is critical for Ventura County.”
When asked how Jackson’s support for the bill reflects her constituents’ needs, many of whom are low income, Jackson offered a comment.
“It’s a bill about stimulating the economy and making sure California continues to be an economic powerhouse. This bill is an economic stimulus package that will rebuild our decrepit roads, provide public transit options for all and save California’s drivers, on average, over $750 annually in car repairs required because of our poorly maintained streets and highways. Our economy and companies rely on our transportation infrastructure to move the people, goods and services necessary to keep our economy flourishing. Without this, companies will leave the state, jobs will disappear and we will not be able to provide the quality of life — or opportunities — people want and deserve in our state.”
The bill will affect operations at the Port of Hueneme as well, where the largest products by dollar value are vehicles such as those manufactured by Mini Cooper, Hyundai and Kia.
Port Commissioner Jason Hodge says that the biggest impact from SB-1 will come in the way of revenue for infrastructure improvements, such as alleviating congestion on the 101 Freeway and perhaps widening the Rice Avenue interchange to speed up traffic.
“Without a question, we have major congestion problems in SoCal and in these freight corridors,” said Hodge. “Because it does address freight corridors, it does target us to upgrade these corridors to create efficiency.”
Hodge adds that the bill will encourage consumers to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles, which could be a boon for the port.
“We’re still analyzing this and considering potential impacts, both positive and negative,” said Hodge.