This morning, Jim Earp (CA Alliance for Jobs, Matt Cate (California State Association of Counties) & Chris McKenzie (League of California Cities) represented the Fix Our Roads Coalition at a press briefing in Sacramento. The goal was to get in front of the political press and explain our coalition, explain the dire state of CA’s streets and roads, stress the urgency of doing something this year, and outline our principles. Below are the reporters who attended today and as well as some of the resulting coverage that popped up this afternoon. As a reminder, you can follow the coalition on Twitter @FixCARoads and on Facebook.
- LA Times: Chris Megerian
- Bay Area News Group: Jessica Calefati
- Sacramento Bee: Jim Miller
- Sacramento Bee: Dan Walters
- Associated Press: Judy Lin
- Capital Public Radio (KXJZ-FM90.9) Katie Orr
- Orange County Register: Nicole Shine
- Bloomberg: Alison Veskin
- Sacramento Business Journal: Allen Young
- Los Angeles News Group: Larry Wilson (editorial page editor)
- StreetsBlogCA: Melanie Curry
FIX OUR ROADS PRESS BRIEFING COVERAGE
- The LA TimesAugust 10, 2015 “With Road Repairs on California’s To Do List, Local Officials Push for New Funds”
- The Sacramento Business JournalAugust 10, 2015 “Business and Union Groups Back Higher Taxes to Fund $6 Billion in Road Work”
- The Sacramento BeeAugust 10, 2015 “Dan Walters: Road Taxes Must Clear GOP’s Bar”
- The Sacramento BeeAugust 10, 2015 “AM Alert: Labor, Business and Local Governments Groups to Put Forward Roads Funding Plan”
- The Sacramento BeeAugust 10, 2015 “No Mileage Tracking in California Road Tax Plan”
FIX OUR ROADS PRESS BRIEFING COVERAGE
The LA Times, August 10, 2015
With Road Repairs on California’s To Do List, Local Officials Push for New Funds
It’s not just state government that faces big bills for road repairs — California cities and counties say they need tens of billions of dollars, and they want a cut of whatever new revenue is generated for maintenance work.
Along with labor and business allies, on Monday morning local officials outlined a plan to use higher taxes and fees to generate $60 billion in revenue over the next decade. The money would be split between state, city and county governments.
“I don’t think the people of California would be satisfied with a gleaming, beautiful state highway system, with broken [local] streets and roads that they can’t live with,” said Matt Cate, executive director of the California State Assn. of Counties.
Gov. Jerry Brown has called a special legislation session to focus attention on problems with California roads, and lawmakers are expected to continue working on the issue when they return from their summer recess next week.
Administration officials estimate that $59 billion is needed for state roads. An additional $78 billion is required for cities and counties, according to local officials.
The plan outlined on Monday includes many of the ideas already suggested by Democratic lawmakers, such as raising the gas tax and boosting the vehicle registration and license fees. It also incorporates a Republican proposal to use some revenue from the cap-and-trade program.
With lawmakers from both parties and the governor looking to find new ways to fund road repairs, advocates hope a deal will be struck in the coming months.
“There’s a lot more traction around this issue than we’ve seen in many years,” said Jim Earp, executive consultant at the California Alliance for Jobs, which represents construction workers and companies.
Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.
The Sacramento Business Journal, August 10, 2015
Business and Union Groups Back Higher Taxes to Fund $6 Billion in Road Work
A coalition that includes influential business and labor groups has called for raising at least $6 billion for roads. The move could give lawmakers political cover for approving new gas taxes and fees when the Legislature reconvenes next week.
The plan, backed by the California Chamber of Commerce and trade unions, calls for “reasonable” increases in gas and diesel sales taxes, as well as vehicle registration and license fees. But those taxes would need to be coupled with reforms that provide new spending oversight and move existing transportation dollars out of the general fund.
Simply redirecting existing public dollars “is not enough,” said Jim Earp, a spokesman for an organization that represents over 2,000 construction firms and 80,000 unionized construction workers.
“We haven’t had any significant increase in funding in 20 years, which is why our roads are in such a deplorable state,” Earp said in a Monday press conference. He is the executive consultant for the California Alliance for Jobs.
The proposal also calls for a 50-50 funding split between state and local governments. It has support from the League of California Cities and California Business Roundtable, a group representing 25 of the state’s biggest employers. The plan calls for new oversight of Caltrans.
Any additional taxes or fees would require a supermajority vote, and thus Republican support. Certain Republican lawmakers have offered early support for new fees, as long as the revenues are combined with bureaucratic reforms. But others complain that California drivers already pay more for gasoline than the rest of the country.
Support from Democrats may also present a challenge. The coalition’s plan calls for $1 billion in truck weight fees to be moved out of the general fund, cutting funding for schools and government programs. It also proposes to redirect some cap-and-trade dollars, a program that funds projects meant to reduce pollution. Both of these proposals could be difficult for the Brown administration and other Democrats.
Earp from the alliance said he hopes a middle ground can be reached. The coalition claims that its proposal would actually save Californians money, since the average motorist pays about $700 a year in car maintenance costs, in part due to crumbly roads.
“You can’t kick the can down the road because it’s going to land in a pothole,” said Matt Cate, executive director of the California State Association of Counties, another coalition member. “Republicans need to compromise; maybe the Democrats need to compromise a little bit.”
An earlier version of this story misattributed the final quotation. Matt Cate, not Jim Earp, said “Republicans need to compromise; maybe the Democrats need to compromise a little bit.”
The Sacramento Bee, August 10, 2015
Dan Walters: Road Taxes Must Clear GOP’s Bar
Special legislative sessions aren’t bound by the time limits of regular sessions, so one on financing road maintenance could run another 15-plus months.
It may take that long to iron out the issue’s many political wrinkles – if they can be.
The biggest, but by no means only, one is that imposing new gasoline or other taxes would require votes from at least a few Republican legislators, and that’s almost impossible.
The last time it happened was in 2009, when six GOP legislators voted to raise taxes temporarily to close a big budget deficit, supporting then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
They were excoriated by their own party leaders and right-wing radio talkers, and even though two received John F. Kennedy Library “Profile in Courage” awards, the political careers of all six were sidetracked. Just one now holds even a minor local office.
On Monday, an impressive coalition of local government, union and business groups unveiled a drive to persuade the Legislature to find some mixture of revenues that would pump an additional $6 billion a year into state and local roadway maintenance.
“The problem is you can’t kick the can down the road,” said Matt Cate of the California State Association of Counties, “because it’s going to land in a pothole.”
There’s no disagreement on the need to do something about the state’s rapidly deteriorating roadways, generally regarded as the nation’s second worst.
Gov. Jerry Brown is on board, at least conceptually. He called the special session, citing a $59 billion backlog in state highway maintenance and pleading with lawmakers to act. Local governments say they have a $78 billion backlog.
Democratic legislators are willing to enact a package of revenue increases, most likely an amalgam of gas and diesel taxes and additional vehicle registration and driver’s license fees.
But Republicans are not willing – yet. They’ve proposed, fundamentally, using surplus general revenues, plus some of the “cap-and-trade” fees on fuel and some belt-tightening in the Department of Transportation to finance needed maintenance.
Enjoying some rare leverage, thanks to the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes, Republicans’ laundry list includes laying off excess Caltrans staff and cutting environmental red tape for transportation projects.
Even were a few Republicans willing to vote for temporary transportation taxes, therefore, their ancillary demands, including general fund diversions, might generate enough opposition among unions, environmentalists and liberal Democrats to doom the deal.
At this point, though, getting Republicans to vote for any new taxes under any circumstances is problematic.
Within minutes of Monday’s announcement by the Fix Our Roads coalition, Jon Coupal, who heads the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, was warning GOP legislators not to heed its pleas.
“CA local gov’ts, labor & some biz groups support higher trans. taxes,” Coupal tweeted. “Felony foolish. No Reep legislator should screw the working class.”
Dan Walters: 916-321-1195, firstname.lastname@example.org, @WaltersBee
The Sacramento Bee, August 10, 2015
AM Alert: Labor, Business and Local Governments Groups to Put Forward Roads Funding Plan
Jim Miller and Andrew Holzman
Whether the Legislature’s special sessions on transportation and healthcare yield any substantive policy changes will be among the dominant plot lines once lawmakers return from their summer recess to begin the final weeks of the 2015 session.
Interests with a stake in better roads will put forward their principles this morning. The approach includes higher taxes on gas and diesel fuels and higher vehicle fees to generate an estimated $6 billion in additional money for state and local road maintenance and improving corridors that enhance trade, such as those to ports.
The coalition includes labor unions, local government groups, and influential business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, that typically are skeptical if not opposed to tax proposals.
Jim Earp, a member of the California Transportation Commission and executive consultant to the labor-management California Alliance for Jobs, said proponents hope today’s proposal will help shape a special session road funding bill. Yet he acknowledged it will be a difficult task in a Legislature that hasn’t approved a broad-based tax increase of any type since 2009, and those were temporary.
“I don’t think there’s anything in here that nobody’s heard of before,” Earp said of the group’s proposal. “At the end of the day there’s no way to talk about a solution without some new revenue. I think that there are people on both sides of the aisle who are looking at what a vote like that is going to mean to them politically.”
Added Matt Cate, executive director of the California State Association of Counties, another member of the coalition: “I don’t think you’ll see on Monday that we think we have the golden ticket that addresses everyone’s concerns.”
The plan follows existing legislative proposals in the transportation special session, including bills by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, and Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.
The Sacramento Bee, August 10, 2015
No Mileage Tracking in California Road Tax Plan
Higher gas and diesel taxes, revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program, and increased vehicle license and registration fees are among the possible sources of new revenue included in a transportation-funding package of principles put forward Monday by a coalition of local government, business and labor groups.
Notably missing from the list of possible ways to generate $60 billion over 10 years: A system of charging people based on the miles they drive instead of the fuel they pump. Such a system is the focus of a pilot study that received $10.7 million in the current budget. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, mentioned the idea earlier this year as an option for generating more transportation revenue. And starting last month, thousands of Oregon motorists began testing mileage-based taxes.
But Jim Earp, a member of the California Transportation Commission and executive consultant to the California Alliance for Jobs, said California has immediate needs for more road-improvement money while any mileage-based system for the state’s 33 million registered vehicles is still years away.
And while the coalition’s research showed public acceptance of higher taxes and fees to improve roads, Earp said privacy concerns could hinder broad acceptance of government’s tracking people’s mileage.
“There are a lot of things involved in that that are going to be difficult,” Earp said. “It’s not going to happen tomorrow.”