Brown administration pressures lawmakers to support road-repair funding plan as support lags for tax hike bill

March 17, 2017

By Patrick McGreevy

With a road-repair funding plan lagging in support among Democratic lawmakers, the Brown administration is stepping up pressure on them to reach a deal before the Legislature goes on spring break April 6.

A bill that would raise the gas tax and vehicle fees to provide $5.5 billion annually to fix crumbling roads and improve mass transit needs a two-thirds vote, which would require all Democratic senators to support it given that the Republicans oppose the tax increases.

But two Democrats — Sens. Richard Roth of Riverside and Henry Stern of Woodland Hills — did not vote for the bill, Senate Bill 1, in committee, and a third, Sen. Steve Glazer of Concord, indicated Friday that he is not yet on board.

“The senator is not yet in support of the proposed spending plan or bill,” said Steven Harmon, a spokesman for Glazer. Asked what Glazer wants in the bill to earn his support, Harmon declined to elaborate except to say “he’s communicated his views to leadership.”

Roth abstained from the committee vote on SB 1 even though he acknowledges that a substantial investment is needed in transportation funding, according to spokesman Shrujal Joseph.

“However, historically Riverside County hasn’t always received its fair share of state dollars for its transportation projects,” Joseph said. “ Indeed, the majority of projects have been funded through local “self-help” measures.  As a result, it is critical that any new funding proposal result in greater equity for our region.”

Joseph also said it is “important for folks to know where their tax dollars are being spent” and which projects will get the proposed revenue.

“This is something that has yet to be conveyed to the Senator or, quite frankly, to the public,” he said.

Some other senators have complained that the current legislation does not have enough money for mass transit and other alternatives to roads.

Meanwhile, Brian Kelly, who is Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointee as secretary of the state transportation agency, is stepping up pressure on lawmakers to agree to a bill.

On Friday, Kelly’s agency sent out a tweet that said “You shouldn’t have to rely on luck to drive on CA’s roads safely. Tell your legislators it’s time to #FIXCAROADS!”

On Monday, Kelly is scheduled to appear with Mayor Eric Garcetti at a rally in Los Angeles being staged by the advocacy group Fix Our Roads, which said in a news release that the event is being held “to urge legislators in Sacramento to quickly pass a transportation funding package by April 6.”

The group said in the release that immediate action is needed to address the backlog of repairs.

“The longer the Legislature delays on a transportation funding package, the worse the damage gets and the more it costs to fix,” the release said. “Participants in the news conference will call on legislators to set aside any differences and quickly pass a transportation funding bill by April 6.”