According to the Department of Transportation, the United States faces an $926 billion backlog in necessary highways, bridges, and public transit investments. Well, unlike Donald Trump and his Republicans allies in Congress, the state of California is doing something about it.
In a momentous act of courage and positive step for their state, the California legislature passed a massive infrastructure plan—paid for by —get this— new taxes.
You read that right. The golden State approved the largest gas tax increase in state history, projected to raise $52 billion over 10 years to fix the state’s crumbling roads, bridges, and public transit systems, something Trump and Congress don’t have the courage to do.
The Golden State approved the largest gas tax increase in state history, projected to raise $52 billion over 10 years to fix the state’s crumbling roads, bridges, and public transit systems.
As noted by Mother jones, “California already has some of the highest gas taxes in the country.” But the falling price of gas, increased fuel efficiency, and the popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles has recently crimped tax revenues, contributing to an estimated $135 billion backlog in road and bridge repairs.
The new tax is designed to plug that gap with a 12-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax.
Passing the measure was a major victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, who has positioned California as a bulwark against the right-wing policies and legislative incompetence of the Trump administration. In a mere eight days, the veteran governor went from announcing the bill to assembling the two-thirds supermajority of lawmakers required to enact a tax increase.
All of the votes except one came from Democrats. After the historic vote, Brown slammed Republicans for their opposition. “I appreciate being a Democrat and what the Democrats did,” he said. “There is a reason why the members of the other party have been going downhill for so many decades. That’s because they are doing nothing. We did something to fix the roads of California.”
“You’re going to be driving on these damn roads. Fix them now, or we may never get them fixed,” Brown said.
California now joins 17 other states—half of them controlled by Republicans—that have enacted gas tax increases since 2013. Yet this approach remains a nonstarter for many Republicans on Capitol Hill and within the Trump administration, which are pushing a national infrastructure plan funded by granting tax credits to private investors.
“Anything that involves a tax, House Speaker Paul Ryan is against it.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, blasted Paul Ryan for stalling progress, saying that “the Speaker of the House is ideologically opposed to public investment in public infrastructure.”
Earlier this year, DeFazio introduced the Penny For Progress Act, a bill that, like the California’s plan, would use increased gas taxes to fund federal highway and transit investment. But it has yet to receive a hearing in Congress.
“Anything that involves a tax or a user fee, [Speaker Ryan] is against it. So that’s the roadblock here,” DeFazio sand according to Mother Jones.
Gov. Brown’s skill at legislative deal-making contrasts sharply with the progress of Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure deal, which has been tied up in Republican infighting.
Speaker Ryan and a faction within the Trump administration led by billionaire leverage buyout specialist-turned-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross want almost all of the spending to come from tax credits given to private investors who underwrite infrastructure projects such as toll roads.
“I don’t think that is a model that is going to be viewed as successful or that you can use it for all of the infrastructure needs that the US has,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the center-right American Action Forum think tank, told the Associated Press. It would only work for projects that generate tolls or user fees, Holtz-Eaken said, and even then, the plan might reward investors for projects that would have been built anyway.
H/T: Mother Jones.