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Legislature Set to Vote on $52 Billion Transportation Plan

SACRAMENTO, CA --Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders aren’t waiting for President Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan to fix California’s crumbling roads and bridges.

During a press conference at the State Capitol, Brown and Democratic leaders announced a new transportation funding program, SB-1, that would cost taxpayers $52 billion over ten years.

According to a media release from the governor’s office, the program will be funded by increases to the state’s excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as an annual “transportation improvement fee” based on a vehicle’s value. There’s also a new $100 “zero emissions vehicle” fee that will be assessed to clean energy vehicles beginning the year 2020.

“California has a massive backlog of broken infrastructure that has been neglected far too long,” said Brown. “Fixing the roads will not get cheaper by waiting – or ignoring the problem. This is a smart plan that will improve the quality of life in California.”

Brown says the state needs to invest in highway infrastructure because bad roads cost California drivers about $700 in repairs each year. The legislation also contains a constitutional amendment that Brown says will ensure the funds collected will go to highway infrastructure and not to the state’s general fund.

However, critics of the program, including State Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner, say low-income Californians will absorb the brunt of Brown’s plan.

“All this plan will do is hurt working-class and poor Californians who must travel farther distances to work,” said Runner. “We could end up paying as much as 80 cents in combined federal and state taxes for each gallon of gasoline. That’s ridiculous.”

According to a 2015 report by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, commutes in California's two largest metro areas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, were longer than average at 62 minutes and 72 minutes respectively. The Bay Area commute is more than 30 percent the national average.

Moreno Valley resident Chearon Raye fears raising the cost of gasoline will hurt Californians on fixed incomes and negatively impact quality of life. She says people are already struggling to make ends meets and that raising the gas tax will put an additional strain on her family.

“I have to commute over 150 miles a day round-trip for work and that mileage doesn’t include anything else, like picking up my children from practice,” said Raye. “I don’t want to pay 12 cents more a gallon for gas. We just passed a local measure to raise taxes for roads, so it’s a double whammy. I just don’t think raising the tax is going to do any good.”

Our family moved to Moreno Valley because it’s more affordable, but now I’ve got to commute 150 miles round-trip from work to home,” said Raye. “We don’t need to raise the gas tax—the state already has enough money.

A 2015 poll conducted by the University of California Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS), shows that 63 percent of Californians are against raising the gas tax.

“Voters usually don’t like to pay more in taxes, especially a levy that is paid by nearly everyone, such as the gas tax,” said IGS director Jack Citrin. “These results show that even when told about a pressing need, Californians do not want to pay more for registering their cars or driving them.”

California Black Media reached out to Senate President Pro-Tem Kevin De Leon for comment on SB-1. De Leon has not responded as of press time.

The Legislature is expected to vote on SB-1 today.

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