Just when you were getting used to paying lower gas prices, the California legislature has approved a $52 billion infrastructure plan that is meant to address thousands of miles of roads and maintenance projects in the state.
This is the first hike in state gas taxes in 23 years.
The cost for this massive project will be shouldered almost exclusively by the drivers of the Golden State, who will be handing over 12 cents a gallon—which experts say will be about $10 per month for the average motorist. Most drivers will also pay from $25 to $50 per year in additional license fees: which is a new annual fee. The additional taxes and fees are expected to raise about $33.7 billion.
The hike was approved almost on a party line vote, but since the Democratic party has a two-thirds majority in both houses, Republican cooperation was largely unneeded, except for one GOP member who defected. Two Democrats voted against the measure. Fiscal measures in California require a two-thirds majority to pass. And, in fact, every one of those votes was needed, with one lawmaker having to be wheeled into the chamber from the Emergency Room of a nearby hospital.
The motivating factor for most of the lawmakers was that the state’s roads are almost as ill—and many require emergency “surgery.”
The passage was a big win for Governor Jerry Brown, who told a rally on the steps of the capitol, “Fixing our roads is basic. If you don’t do it now it gets more expensive next year and the year after.”
Currently the state has a backlog of about $130 billion in necessary road repairs. It has been estimated that half of the state’s roads are in disrepair.
The state’s GOP criticized the bill for imposing “regressive taxes on low-income and middle class families,” adding, “Californians pay the second highest gas prices and gas taxes (including cap-and-trade) in the nation. The average Californian pays more than $200 every year to register a vehicle. This bill will increase the average cost of registering a vehicle by over $50, and the cost of gasoline by nearly 20 cents/gallon (over current rate).”
Critics also pointed out that the legislature has diverted billions of dollars of transportation taxes and used them for non-transportation purposes, and said nothing prevents the new taxes from also being diverted.