RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Governor Jerry Brown stopped in the city of Riverside on Tuesday afternoon to tout his proposed Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair & Accountability Act of 2017, which would impose a new tax on gasoline and an increase in vehicle fees.
"California roads are deteriorating, so we have got to fix them," Brown said to a gallery of news media outlets. "This is the project of years of talks, meetings, and compromises."
Brown stood with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D- South Gate, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Moreno Valley, Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington at North Park to rally support. He was flanked by labor, business, and local leaders as well.
"As a city within the greater Coachella Valley, this is exciting news," said Steven Hernandez, the mayor of the City of Coachella. "Last time we heard about potential dollars that were coming into the Valley, that came into Coachella, we saw five new interchanges throughout the greater Coachella Valley. Indian got built. Jefferson is obviously under construction."
Brown said that, had the state done this 15 years ago, it would be at half the cost. He said it should not be prolonged any longer. The $5-billion dollar a year proposal is expected to send 50% of revenue back to local governments for transportation purposes only. It is something Hernandez said is needed in the valley.
"An infusion of dollars of resources from the state level can only help match our local dollars that we collect from CVAG and RCTC, which is the Riverside County Transportation Commission." If passed, it would be the largest investment in the state's history dedicated to fixing roadways and infrastructure.
Brown said the plan would only cost most drivers $10 a month and would generate jobs, something union workers at the conference said they were looking forward to.
Hernandez said the within the city of Coachella alone, there has been roughly $290-million dollars in infrastructure upgrades identified.
While Brown said the plan would only cost most drivers $10 dollars a month, some are skeptical. A small group of activists protested the increase in taxes at the conference.
Bait and switch, that's what this is. This has nothing to do with money for transportation," said Tressy Capps.
The bill, which could be voted on as early as Thursday, seeks a 20-cent per gallon increase in diesel taxes, a 12-cent per gallon hike in gas taxes and a 5.75 percent increase in diesel sales taxes, as well as higher vehicle license fees -- up an average $38 per vehicle.
SB 1 requires a two-thirds vote to pass the Legislature, and with Republican lawmakers throughout the state aligned against the measure, a few Democratic votes in opposition could scotch its chances of reaching the
The hikes will generate an estimated $5.2 billion in annual revenue, according to the governor's office
Among inland reps, Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, has come out against it, along with Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Palm Desert, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, and Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Beaumont. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Indio, and Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona, have said they will join Medina in supporting the proposal.
The California Trucking Association Monday issued a statement in support of the bill, hailing it as an ``infrastructure package that will fix our roads, make vital upgrades to our freight system and protect the $200 million a year truckers invest in the cleanest, most efficient equipment available.''
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has railed against the gas tax package, saying it's the product of tax-and-spend ``Sacramento politicians and special interests.''
``The state collects one of the highest gas taxes in the nation, but do they spend it all on roads and highways? No,'' HJTA Director Jon Coupal said Sunday. ``Much of the money we pay in car taxes, truck fees, and gas taxes is diverted. So, a gas and car tax increase means we would be paying twice for the same service.''
Last week, in announcing the push to pass SB 1, Brown pointed out that ``California has a massive backlog of broken infrastructure that has been neglected far too long.''
``Fixing the roads will not get cheaper by waiting or ignoring the problem,'' he said. ``This is a smart plan that will improve the quality of life in California.''
The package touts ``strict new accountability provisions'' to ensure funds are earmarked specifically for transportation projects, including highway and bridge repairs, enlargement of congested travel corridors and improved inter-city transit systems.
Melendez and other Republicans have called for scrapping the increasingly over-budget High Speed Rail Project and cutting state bureaucracy -- including an estimated 3,500 redundant workers in Caltrans -- to save money that could be applied to infrastructure improvements.
``The Democrat majority has failed year after year to fix our roads, and now they are expecting the people of California to bail them out,'' Melendez said.