California Lawmaker wants to add $52 annual "road use charge"

9:10:00 AM

California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced plans Wednesday to raise $2 billion a year for repairs to the state's crumbling roads, bridges and highways by charging drivers an annual "road use charge" of $52. Californians already pay the highest gas tax in the nation with a combined state and federal tax of 71.29 cents per gallon. While since 2008 the state has been converting existing lanes into toll lanes on state highways like stretches on the 10 and 101 freeways in Los Angeles. Not to mention the fact that the California DMV already has over 120 other fees that can apply to your vehicle for everything from "Abandoned vehicle abatement fee" to the "Auto theft deterrence fee" (both of those we all pay). Speciality fees like "Motorcycle Transportation Permit" or "Engine change fees" can be charged as need.

Her plan includes a road user charge that works out to dollar a week for most drivers, but could cost more for commercial license holders. The Sacramento Bee reports that Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego said, “You've heard vehicle mileage, you've heard vehicle license fee, there’s a way you could attach it to insurance – people pay insurance on a regular basis. Either way, it’s a fee that we have to figure out how best and the easiest way to collect it.” Making it sound as if this plan is already moving forward.

Yet no mention was made by Atkins about the constant wasteful spending and overruns that have been allowed to happen under the supervision of the state agency CalTrans. The 405 Freeway is a prime example, where contractors were years behind schedule and over budget by at least $75 million (the final number is still being calculated). Or the Bay  Bridge project that is still under investigation by the CHP and Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee has been demanding answers from CalTrans for years, however the agency has been accused of covering up everything from safety concerns to budget issues.

The $6.4 billion Bay Bridge is under scrutiny as well since a Caltrans engineer was told "not to record his concerns in writing, either on paper or e-mail, but rather to communicate orally,"  in regards to welds on the Chinese-made bridge. A quality-control consultant said Caltrans supervisors "did not want a record that would be legally available through the California Public Records Act,"  (read more at the SF Gate).

Last month Gov. Jerry Brown asked legislators to tackle a $59 billion backlog in infrastructure projects, but so far the only solutions to the problem that Sacramento has come up with includes higher taxes and fees. This while the State has started spending $67.6 billion on connecting Fresno to Bakersfield via "high speed rail, " with the hopes of eventually connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. The states transportation issues will continue to grow as the state's two largest cities attract more residents.

The only saving grace is that any new fees would require support from Republican lawmakers because they require two-thirds support.

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