Gov. Brown Wants $5.2 Billion Tax Increase to Fix Transportation  

Jerry Brown (Alex Wong / Getty)
Alex Wong / Getty

Gov. Jerry Brown wants the Democrat-controlled state legislature to hike unpopular registration fees and fuel excise taxes by $5.2 billion a year to fix transportation over the next decade — after years of diverting $1.5 billion in transportation infrastructure taxes to subsidize California’s General Fund bond payments.

Despite Californians paying the highest sales and income taxes and the second highest gas taxes in the nation, Gov. Brown wants to raise the excise tax on distributors of fuel by 67 percent  — from $.18 per gallon to $.30 per gallon — and the annual vehicle registration fees by $25 for the next decade, according to SFGate. The equivalent cost per gallon of the combined taxes would jump to over $.88.

Commercial vehicles would be hit harder, with the excise taxes on diesel spiking from 20 cents to 36 cents a gallon, and diesel sales tax jumping from 1.75 percent to 5.75 percent. Beginning in 2020, even hybrid and electric cars would be socked with $100 a year fee.

California’s transportation infrastructure consists of 50,000 lane miles of highways; 9 toll bridges; 12,000 other bridges,;11 million square feet of Department of Transportation offices; maintenance shops; 170 Department of Motor Vehicles offices; and 102 California Highway Patrol offices; according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Collection of gas and excise taxes and registration fees used to pay for all transportation spending. But after the flood of cash from voters approving the $20 billion Proposition 1B transportation bond in 2006 and the $10 billion Proposition 1A high–speed rail bond in 2008, the legislature started diverting about 18 percent of transportation revenues each year to fund un-related state general obligation bond interest and principal payments.

The National Transportation Group, which tracks national and local transportation spending, estimates that California’s abysmal infrastructure spending now costs state drivers an extra $56.3 billion a year in congestion, safety, and vehicle operating costs.

Brown claims the new spending bill will only costs each Californian in the state about $10 a month, but that works out to about $500 a month for a family of four. Under state law, to pass such regressive and very unpopular taxes, Brown will need every vote from the state’s two-thirds Democrat majorities in both legislative branches.

To cajole liberals into voting for spending $30 billion on roads and $4 billion for bridge repair, Brown is offering $7.5 billion for public transportation, $1 billion walking and bicycle paths, $2.5 billion to reduce major city road congestion, and $275 million for intercity-transit expansions, according to SFGate.

Democrats still remember that Gov. Gray Davis was recalled for tripling vehicle registration fees in 2003, opening the door for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger to become governor. The Terminator’s first action as governor was to rescind the registration fee increase.


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