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Who pays for the proposed 'California Road Repairs Act'? That would be California motorists. California transportation officials have a plan that would generate an estimated $3 billion a year for road improvements by more than doubling vehicle license fees.
The "California Road Repairs Act of 2014" would phase in a 1 percent surcharge of a vehicle's market value over four years to the fee, the equivalent of property tax on a home. That's the catch -- it means the average Californian would pay an additional $100 per year.
Once cleared for signature gathering, proponents would have up to 150 days to collect 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
Twenty-five percent of funds would go to cities across the state based on population. An equal amount would go to counties, while 40 percent would be earmarked for state highways -- 60 percent to Southern California, 40 percent to Northern California.
The remaining 10 percent would pay for transit system maintenance.
But some say that if Californians were better informed, their opposition might make government more accountable.
Transportation economist Adrian Moore says "California has a transportation spending problem, not a transportation funding problem.
"California spends 4.7 times as much per mile of state-controlled highway as the national average. More specifically, for every $1 Texas spends on its highways, California spends $5.80. For every $1 Michigan spends on its highways, California spends $3. According to Reason Foundation's annual ranking of the performance of state highway systems, California ranks 47th for highway conditions, while Michigan ranks 30th and Texas 11th. So while spending a lot less per mile, those states are able to have much better road conditions. In fact, over the last 20 years, California's highway system and road conditions made the least amount of progress among all 50 states." And that's proof, he says, that "California spends more to get less."
Dealing with that problem should be a much higher priority than raising taxes. If Caltrans could become as efficient and cost-effective as Michigan's department of transportation, for example, that would increase the amount of funds for road maintenance by five times as much as the proposed tax hike. To achieve that, however, requires a lot of change.
First, Caltrans needs to be overhauled. There is arguably more fat and wasteful spending at Caltrans than there is in any other state agency, which is saying a lot. Spending 4.7 times the national average per mile (in exchange for one of the poorest-ranked transportation systems in the county, no less) means a lot of bad decisions about spending are being made. Far too many dollars are being used for Caltrans staff and overhead costs. For every mile of highway it controls, California spent $77,000 on administration costs. That's taxpayer money that never makes it to fill potholes, repair bridges or widen roads.
Ben Boychuk of The City Journal quarterly, is equally apprehensive. He said: "As with much else in California’s Byzantine state budget, the car tax has more to do with bureaucracy and favored legislative programs than with anything else. In 2012, for instance, the car tax raised just over $515 million. Most of the money went to the Department of Motor Vehicles. About $173 million went to local governments, while the Franchise Tax Board, the controller’s office, and sundry state agencies divvied up the rest. Notice where the money didn’t go: roads."
What's the best solution? Tell us what you think! If you have an idea that could help California tackle their infrastructure woes without raising taxes, please share it.