Senate Leader Dismisses Idea of Using Cap-and-Trade Funds for Road Repairs

"Kevin de Léon 2012" by Neon Tommy - Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons
Kevin de Léon in 2012. Image by Neon Tommy – Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

At a press conference in Sacramento yesterday, Senate President Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon dismissed the idea, floated by Republican legislators and anti-tax advocates, that revenue in the state’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction fund could be used for road maintenance and repair.

“That is not a serious proposal,” said de Leon. “There is no nexus between greenhouse gas emissions and potholes.”

The proposal is part of a package of recommendations [PDF] from Assembly Republicans, who say they will refuse to support raising taxes to pay for what is generally agreed to be a crisis in funding for transportation in California. The Republican package includes finding ways to use existing revenue, including, they say, applying $2 billion in cap-and-trade revenue towards road repair.

“I admit I’m not a lawyer,” said de Leon, “but the thesis behind cap-and-trade is to use the revenue for carbon reduction. Repairing roads contradicts what cap-and-trade funds are for.”

His remarks came on the same day that the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a Special Session committee formed by Governor Jerry Brown to tackle the problem of transportation funding, rejected a bill that would have defunded high speed rail and used any remaining funds for highway and road repair and new construction.

“We do have to repair our crumbling infrastructure,” said de Leon, “and we can grow our economy [at the same time]. We need serious proposals.”

So far proposals considered by the Senate committee have included the one to scuttle high speed rail and another that would have forced Caltrans to reduce its payroll by contracting out an increasing percentage of its work. Those were both defeated yesterday, but the committee did pass a bill that would create the position of Transportation Inspector General to oversee all transportation funding in the state. It also passed a bill from the committee chair, Senator Jim Beall (D-Campbell), that would raise taxes on gasoline and diesel, create a “road access charge” for all vehicles, and require Caltrans to tighten its belt and increase its efficiency by a third.

Because it raises taxes, Beall’s bill needs to be approved by two-thirds of the legislature. Although it sailed through this committee, its fate on the Senate floor and in the Assembly is unclear. Senate Republican leader Bob Huff had said a few days earlier that Republican legislators will not support any tax increases.

De Leon expressed surprised at Huff’s comments. “He is keenly aware of the need for funds,” he said. “Simply saying ‘no taxes’ stymies the discussion” before it can get started.

“All solutions are on the table,” said de Leon, “and I hope my colleague Mr. Huff will see the wisdom” of being open to discussing them.

Look for more coverage of the transportation funding discussions in Streetsblog California over the next few weeks.

  • neroden

    Or, if you really wanted to stop emitting CO2 by idling, you could just buy a car which doesn’t idle. “Automatic off” is very common now. Electric cars don’t produce any CO2.

    Making cars go faster has nothing to do with CO2 emissions.

  • CalRobert

    It sounds like we agree on the best course of action available to you. I wish you all the best.

  • AndrewLB

    The Japanese pay twice as much per gallon than the U.S. national average.

    http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/global_gasprices/

  • AndrewLB

    First of all, your claim that SUV’s cause more death on the roads is absolute garbage. Read: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/40/5/1
    As for road damage, that’s also inaccurate. While weighing more than your standard car, SUV’s have a “softer footprint” due to wider tires and much higher tire profiles, which completely negates the weight issue.
    The vehicles that are the problem are overloaded trucks.

    Since you’re clearly a socialist who wants Government running every aspect of your life, why don’t you stop trying to f*ck this country up and live in a nice place like Cuba where they will take all your money and be your life long benefactor.
    Well I for one am leaving this state for one with actual economic freedom. When you finally run California completely into the ground you’d better stay here and live in the mess you made, along with all your socialist buddies. But keep in mind one thing about socialism… eventually you’re going to run out of other peoples money.

  • AndrewLB

    It doesn’t make sense to fiscally irresponsible idiots who want to continue fleecing the taxpayers for every last cent they have.

    Repairingupgrading roads and bridges will greatly reduce the amount of time people sit idling in bumper to bumper traffic every day. This would in effect reduce gasoline consumption and pollution overall.

    The reason why the democrats refuse to work within the current budget is because they’ve completely blown the tax dollars from the most recent tax hike (and the retro-active hike) on stupid sh*t like this browndoggle and the massive debt from over-generous government employee benefits and pensions. Combine that with saddling small businesses with paid sick leave, increased freeway congestion due to illegally converting carpool lanes into toll lanes which WE paid for, and constant increases in the cost of doing business, people with money are leaving the state in droves only to be replaced by illegal aliens.

  • CalRobert

    We agree that Japan has a better model.

    I would strongly support tolling the highways, and actually would like to see more public transport be privatized in a system where all externalities were priced in to transport. In a sense, this is what is happening with Lyft and Uber – though it’s not exactly mass transport, it is at least publicly available.

    One of the biggest hurdles for private rail in the US is that the government provides free roads for some reason, but we seem to think rails should not be the same. If I want to start running a bus, I will have lower infrastructure cost than if I want to start running at rain, since I’ll need to build the railroad first.

  • Azunyan

    Slash funding elsewhere. Do you think lifeguards are entitled to be paid six figure salaries courtesy of California taxpayers?

    http://spectator.org/articles/60778/california-faces-death-pension

  • Azunyan

    I can argue that there’s another way to do it.

    Japan runs privatized trains without taxes (some of those private trains dates back to the turn of the 19th century!), runs purely on profit without any taxpayer assistance, and it’s frequently noted by many to be the best and most efficient in the world. It’s streets are free, but their highways are tolled.

    Japan pays only just slightly more gas than California. Japan doesn’t even have any natural resources either.

    If Japan can figure out a way to keep transit systems running without taxes, can keep roads free, pays a little more in gas taxes than we do, and tolled the highways, why not look at that model instead? I more than open to the idea of privatizing our mass transit system, keeping roads free, but tolling all of our freeways. Seems to work fine across the Pacific, perhaps we should look into that idea.

  • CalRobert

    Also, it may please you to know that the gas tax here has, indeed, fallen.

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2014/jun/27/gas-tax-cars-driving-mpg-fuel-prices-driving/

    Of course, that will make it harder to pay for maintenance.

  • CalRobert

    That’s part of the logic behind a gas tax – vehicles which use more gas (SUV’s) cause more damage and death on the roads than those which use less gas (presumably your hybrid), so a gas tax makes more sense than a per-mile fee, in general.

    Of course, the costs associated with road building are complex. It’s not just the asphalt, of course. When your bus system has to go 4 times as far with the same number of people because developers have turned the city into a wasteland of parking, who pays? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a prius or a Tahoe in that case. I actually think roads should all be tolled AND gas should be expensive, with an excellent public transport system funded by said taxes, but I’m weird.

  • Azunyan

    I do my part to drive a hybrid vehicle to use less gas and help the environment, I’m using less gas than SUV drivers out there, my carbon footprint is lower than others, why should I be punished with more taxes and registration fees?

  • CalRobert

    Because spending any cap and trade money to ease driving, an activity which emits large amounts of Carbon, makes no sense at all.

  • Azunyan

    Ugh, politicians saying no to everything the other side says and never coming to a compromise. It’s either 100% my way or the 100% the other way, never a 50-50 compromise solution.

    Why not just use both, but in smaller scale? Compromise with the GOP to use some portion of cap-and-trade to come up with 50% of the funds and compromise with the Dems to raise gas and diesel taxes to fix roads to come up with the other 50% of the funds.

    We already pay the highest gas taxes in the nation and vehicle registration rates have gone higher, yet I don’t see roads and potholes being fixed. One has to ask where the heck all these money are really going to.

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