MOORLACH UPDATE — Hitting the Brakes — August 11, 2015

Next week, California’s legislators will be pressured to vote for a $6 billion per year gas tax increase to fix our roads. Here’s the problem:

  1. California already has the 4th highest gas tax in the nation, as well as one of the highest costs of living for any state.
  2. An audit of Caltrans revealed substantial cost overruns for its projects and an overstaffing of 3.500 positions at the cost of a half-a-billion dollars a year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Reduction Tax — August 8, 2015 August 8, 2015 John Moorlach).
  3. During this year’s budget debate, state tax revenue was at least $6 billion higher than original estimates. Why didn’t we apply this to our transportation needs?

My first bill, SBX1-9, offers a start to creating needed efficiencies in California’s Department of Transportation, Caltrans, by gradually reducing its overstaffing (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — SBX1-9 — July 18, 2015 July 18, 2015 John Moorlach).

The reasonable approach to this transportation discussion is to address the structural waste and inefficiencies at Caltrans before increasing taxes that will hurt the middle class and poor in California.

The OC Register concurs in their lead editorial below.

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Tap brakes on urge to raise gas taxes

There’s a drag race in Sacramento to increase taxes to fill the state’s innumerable potholes. The finish line is the reconvening Aug. 19 of the Legislature’s Extraordinary Session on Transportation and Infrastructure Development.

No question but that something needs to be done. The Reason Foundation’s 2014 Annual Highway Report ranked the state 45th among the 50 states for road conditions.

The Register reported Sunday, “Caltrans has put the road repair backlog at $5.7 billion. Now California is one of several states to consider replacing the state gas tax with a charge for every mile driven.”

And in Sacramento, the Fix Our Roads Coalition held a press conference Monday on the problem. Members include the California Alliance for Jobs, the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities.

The group’s fact sheet called for a “responsible, accountable solution to fix our roads,” including “to raise at least $6 billion annually … for at least 10 years or until an alternative method of funding our transportation system is agreed upon.” This would include “reasonable increases” in gasoline and diesel taxes and the Vehicle License Fee, or car tax.

But before taxes even are discussed, the “accountable” part of the solution should be stressed. State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, released a fact sheet noting that, while the state collects $10.6 billion annually from gas and transportation fees, just 20 percent of that money goes to road repair and new construction.

Moorlach chief of staff Tim Clark told us where the rest of the money goes: $3.5 billion to the California Highway Patrol, $1.4 billion to local roads and $4 billion nobody knows where, including the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The Moorlach fact sheet also referenced an LAO report that found Caltrans wastes $500 million a year on extra staffing. Sen. Moorlach has sponsored a bill to bar the hiring of permanent personnel with temporary funding. And let’s not forget that the state diverts $500 million yearly in gas taxes on speculative high-speed rail.

Instead of even higher taxes, what’s needed is ending waste, plus accounting for all spending.

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This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.

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