Road Repair and Accountability Act Provides Meaningful Relief for California Drivers
By Carolyn Coleman, League of California Cities
***Editor’s Note: The following article is one viewpoint on the repeal effort of the Road Repair and Accountability Act. On Feb. 22, an opposing viewpoint was published in the article “Give Voters a Voice on Transportation Taxes.”
In the spring of 2017, something truly historic happened: the Governor and a supermajority of the Legislature finally acted to pass the most significant, long-overdue investment in state and local transportation infrastructure improvements in California history.
Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act, will provide meaningful relief for California drivers who for too long have been driving on rutted roads, congested freeways, and unsafe bridges and overpasses. SB 1 guarantees funds to every California city, county and transit agency to fix local streets and roads, fill potholes, make bridge safety repairs, reduce traffic congestion, and invest in mass transit.
But the relief could be short lived. Certain partisan politicians are pushing a ballot measure aimed for the November 2018 ballot to repeal SB1. Supporters have publicly admitted that their measure is a political attempt to help them win elections in November.
For millions of California drivers who rely on safe, well-maintained roads to get to work, kids to school, or to run errands, this partisan political ploy will prove disastrous.
Their ballot measure to repeal SB 1 will take away funding now flowing to every community, and halt vital road and transportation improvements dead in their tracks. All over the state, cities, counties, transit agencies and Caltrans are putting SB 1 funds to good use.
Already, more than 4,000 state and local transportation improvement projects are under construction or in the approval process. Projects range from massive freeway congestion improvements to paving over thousands of local potholes. Transit agencies are expanding routes and improving buses and commuter rail. And cities and counties are fixing bridges and overpasses while improving bike and pedestrian lanes to make them safer.
You can view this tremendous progress at www.rebuildca.ca.gov and see local transportation improvement projects taking place directly in your community.
Senate Bill 1 comes with strict accountability to protect taxpayers. It created an office of Inspector General to oversee projects and reduce red tape and bureaucracy. Local governments are required to report their progress and how they use the funds. And, lastly, voters will have the chance in June 2018 to pass Proposition 69, which will prevent the Legislature from diverting new transportation funds, guaranteeing the new funds can only be used for transportation improvements.
Opponents of this new transportation funding package aren’t being truthful with the voters. They like to point to the size of California’s budget and claim that we should pay for transportation from existing revenues. With a backlog of needed projects more than $150 billion statewide, it is not viable or realistic to suggest we significantly cut funding for schools, health care or other services by using general fund dollars.
Senate Bill 1 is the fiscally responsible and equitable way to pay for road improvements. It promotes the “user fee” philosophy that motorists should pay to fix the roads they use. Under SB 1, everyone pays their fair share. In fact, in 1983 President Ronald Reagan said: “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.”
A broad coalition including business, public safety leaders, local governments, labor, environmentalists and others has come together to protect local transportation improvements by defeating this ballot measure should it go to the ballot. We’re confident voters will reject this partisan political ploy.
After all, Californians know our roads must be fixed. We cannot go backward.
Carolyn Coleman is the Executive Director of the League of California Cities. The opinions in this article are presented in the spirit of spurring discussion and reflect those of the author and not necessarily the Treasurer, his office or the State of California.