Repairing California’s crumbling roads and highways, and investing in our other infrastructure needs should be at the top of the agenda in Sacramento. Often, it falls victim to other budget priorities.
There’s no question that setting aside a secure and stable annual funding stream to fix our roads, bridges, and ports – and build new ones – should be a budget priority.
Gov. Brown dedicates $4.6 billion in funding in his 2018-19 budget plan for transportation funding, but this money is shaky at best. It is reliant upon a questionable 12 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase enacted by the Legislature last year. A recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that a majority of voters are poised to repeal the gas tax increase at the ballot this November.
Meanwhile, lawmakers and the Governor continually fail to provide sufficient budget funds to invest in California’s non-transportation infrastructure needs, such as water storage, modernizing the power grid, and building and repairing schools, hospitals, and courthouses.
So, with the benefit of a roughly $6.1 billion budget surplus, two common-sense proposals were introduced this week that would make infrastructure the priority it should be in California:
- “Dare to Build Act” – Former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes and Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair Jay Obernolte have proposed (ACA 21), which would dedicate at least 2 percent of General fund revenue each year toward “new, visionary, and innovative infrastructure projects that will prepare California for the future.” The money could be used to fund clean energy improvements, prepare the state against future disaster or terrorist attacks, and build high-tech schools of the future, among other things. This proposal channels the spirit of Gov. Brown’s father Pat Brown, who built much of the modern California infrastructure during his governorship. ACA 21 represents the type of visionary thinking that has been missing in the Legislature in recent years – looking to the future rather than always playing catch up.
- “2-2-2 Framework” – Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates and Senate Republicans have proposed a “2-2-2 Framework,” which would invest $2 billion of the surplus to rebuild communities, along with $2 billion each to pay down pension debt and increase the state Rainy Day Fund. This could include new housing incentives, building new homeless shelters, or fixing local streets and roads. The 2-2-2 Framework aligns with fiscally prudent rhetoric of Governor Brown about spending one-time money for one-time needs and paying down debt. With a significant budget surplus, surely at least some of these dollars should be invested in California infrastructure.
Tim Anaya is communications director for Pacific Research Institute.