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This Week’s Transportation Hearing and Educational Forum Elevate Need for Funding Solutions

January 27, 2017
The message coming out of the Capitol this week was resoundingly clear — California’s state and local roadways are falling apart and Californians cannot afford to wait any longer for the Legislature to pass a transportation funding package. It comes down to pave now or pay more later.
California cities have been at the forefront of a multi-year coalition-led advocacy campaign to urge the Legislature to increase funding for repair and maintenance because the entire system is rapidly declining as available resources are insufficient to meet the needs. It has been a long road but the good news is the widespread agreement among Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leadership on this issue means that California is much closer to having a funding solution. This week’s transportation focus sets the stage for the final work on this crucial priority.
State and local roads have a maintenance backlog of $130 billion and California motorists are spending more than $700 annually on car repairs due to pothole-filled roads. This backlog is divided between $59 billion for state highways and $73 billion for local streets, roads, and bridges. Without additional funding, this shortfall is projected to grow by $20 billion in the next decade.
Leadership on Transportation Funding Proposed FY 2017-18 Budget
The Governor in his proposed FY 2017-18 budget included a 10 year, $43 billion transportation infrastructure investment plan.
Legislative leadership identified transportation as a top concern last week during a Public Policy Institute of California event. Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) all reiterated their commitment to funding the repair and maintenance of the state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.
Also last week, the Fix Our Roads Coalition, of which the League is a founding member, held a news conference in the Sacramento Convention Center. Hundreds of city officials were joined by representatives from county, business and labor groups to talk with reporters about the urgent need for more transportation funding. 
Senate Hearing Puts Spotlight on Transportation Funding Shortfall
Tuesday afternoon Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, held and informational hearing on the quickly expanding funding shortfall for California roads and bridges. Sen. Beall’s expertise in transportation and infrastructure goes back to his days in local government, serving on the San Jose City Council and later the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. In recent years, he has led the effort in the Senate to craft a transportation funding bill. The League supports his current bill, SB 1, as well as Assembly Member Jim Frazier’s (D-Oakley) AB 1.
Sen. Beall set the hearing to give new members of his committee an opportunity to learn more about transportation issues and the challenges facing the state and local system. Along with other committee members joining Sen. Beall on the dais was Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee.
Legislative Representative Rony Berdugo represented the League, sharing the latest findings of the biennial 2016 Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment, released in October 2016.
He pointed out that the assessment captured 99 percent of California’s local streets and roads and detailed the Pavement Condition Index, the measurement tool used to assess road conditions for this survey. Using graphs, he showed that in 10 years without any additional funding, road conditions will worsen and the backlog will grow from $73 to $93 billion. “It would take an additional $7 billion to achieve what is called Best Management Practices, meaning the infrastructure is in good condition,” said Berdugo. “It’s a lot cheaper to maintain the roads once they are in good condition.”
Fix Our Roads Coalition Hosts Legislative Educational Forum in Capitol
California Transportation Commissioner Jim Madaffer, former member of the San Diego City Council and former League president, joined representatives of the Fix Our Roads Coalition on Wednesday morning in the Capitol for a one-hour educational forum geared to legislators and legislative staff. The sponsoring organizations included the League, the California State Association of Counties, the California Alliance for Jobs, the California Transit Association, Transportation California, and CALCOG.
Speakers, including Berdugo, gave an overview of how transportation infrastructure is funded in California, an update on the backlog of deferred maintenance and prospects of a road user charge system. Participants also learned about the results of the most recent Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment, which documents, on a biennial basis, the status of the local streets and roads system. In addition, transit system issues and funding were covered along with the relationship between transportation infrastructure and California’s economy.
Take Action — Send Support Letters on AB 1 and SB 1
The League is supporting AB 1 (Frazier) and SB 1 (Beall), which are similar proposals that provide comprehensive and sensible transportation reforms, modest increases to existing revenue sources as well as meaningful infrastructure investments. Through these revenue sources, AB 1 and SB 1 would generate an additional $6 billion annually to provide desperately needed funding for the state and local transportation network. In addition to raising revenue, the proposal includes a series of reforms to improve efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
Along with the League support, city support is critical to ensuring that the voice of California cities is heard by legislators. Cities are urged to take action and use the League’s sample letters in support of SB 1 and AB 1 to tailor their comments to illustrate the impact of these proposals on their local streets and transportation infrastructure. Letters are linked below in the Next Steps section.
AB 1 and SB 1 would raise revenue over a variety of sources:
  • A 12 cent increase to the gas tax (SB 1 would phase this increase in over three years);
  • Ending the Board of Equalization’s “true up” process on the unreliable price based excise tax on gas;
  • A $38 increase to the vehicle registration fee;
  • A $100 vehicle registration fee on zero emission vehicles;
  • A 20 cent increase to the diesel excise tax;
  • $300 million from existing Cap-and-Trade funds; and
  • $500 million in vehicle weight fees phased in over five years. 
Next Steps
The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee has scheduled a full hearing on SB 1 on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol. The League will be there testifying in support of this measure. Before that hearing cities are strongly encouraged to send support letters on SB 1 to the committee. It is also important for cities to weigh in with support on AB 1.  
The League has prepared sample letters for cities to use.  


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