April 5, 2017
By Gary Toebben
Last week during ACCESS Sacramento, the Chamber was proud to stand with other business leaders, Gov. Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon at a press conference unveiling the outline of a long-sought transportation funding agreement. Last year’s special session on transportation was a bust and ended with no action. Finally, it appears that Sacramento has now made funding for our deteriorating roads and highways a priority.
The $52 billion package over 10 years will increase the State’s gas tax for the first time in 23 years and create a separate vehicle fee, which will go towards the $130 billion backlog of fixes to state and local roads. Our crumbling infrastructure is a threat to our economy and the mobility of our residents while costing frustrated motorists hundreds of extra dollars a year in car repairs. According to the Governor’s office, the average driver will pay about $13 per month in what are essentially user-fees, half of which will go to state roads, bridges and transportation projects. The other half will go directly back to municipalities for local roads.
Developing a plan was a major step, but the hard part begins now. While nearly everyone acknowledges both the problem and the need, many legislators have changes they would like to make. In some cases, their support is contingent upon these changes. While negotiations are an important part of the legislative process, legislators must find a way to get to “yes.” Nearly every good, middle class job in our state relies on a transportation system that gets people to work and delivers the products and services they produce. These residents and the entire state will suffer a lot more from the lack of transportation maintenance than they will from the tax increases that are included in the legislation. To use Gov. Brown’s analogy, while we fight over what kind of shingles to use to repair our leaking roof and how we should pay for it, our furniture is being damaged. The cost of inaction is growing every day.
There was a time when Californians regularly bragged about their highways and street network. It is time to rekindle that pride with transportation investments that nearly everyone realizes are necessary. Let’s prove to ourselves and to the rest of the nation that California is not too divided to act on its transportation needs. The outline presented last week is a solid piece of legislation. Let’s negotiate with each other and get to “yes” to reach the 2/3rds requirement needed for passage.
This isn’t an easy vote, but it is a critical one. The time for kicking the can down the road has passed. The time to fix our leaking roof is now.
Gary Toebben is the President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.