When Governor Brown stood in the middle of the Santa Fe overpass in Downtown Riverside earlier this week flanked by local, county, and state leaders, construction workers, and labor unions, promoting California’s massive road repair and transportation legislation, it in many ways illustrated not only just how broken our state’s transportation infrastructure currently is, but how broken our state of political affairs has become. There is a deep divide in our state, with the far left at odds with the far right, a constituency mistrustful of its leaders, and Inland residents feeling like they will once again be burdened with unfair taxation since they experience longer commutes and use more gasoline.
Senate Bill 1 will raise over $50 billion in increased taxes and fees over a ten-year period to fix our deteriorating roads, freeways and bridges and includes a constitutional amendment requiring the funds be spent on issues related to transportation.
In a style that I describe as insistent pragmatism, the governor presented his philosophy behind the urgency: Fixing the roads will not get cheaper by waiting – or ignoring the problem. We fix it now or we fail. You get what you pay for and if you pay nothing you get nothing. Roads are the key to a nation’s greatness, funding the transportation infrastructure is “paying the price of civilization.”
Local leaders like Perris City Councilwoman Tonya Burke support the landmark legislation because half of the money will flow back to our cities and counties. “Because we’re a small city, we rely heavily on state funding to assist infrastructure projects. Funds from a transportation package passed by the state Legislature could go toward many of our future capital improvement projects such as widening the Ethanac Bridge at the San Jacinto River, improving upon our storm drains to decrease the level of flooding during heavy rainfall, and adding much-needed sidewalks that will improve upon the safety of children walking to schools located in their communities,” she wrote in a recently published op-ed. Many of us get it, but we don’t like it. Nor do we trust that all we hear from Sacramento is true.
When it comes to the way the state spends the money we send to Sacramento, there is the nagging question from California taxpayers, “what have you been doing with the already high gas taxes we pay?” Residents question where the money has gone and how much of it has been diverted to the state’s general fund? I invite you to read our contributor S.E. Williams’ article "Raising Gasoline Taxes to Repair The States Crumbling Infrastructure" which outlines the politics behind the issue in more detail. We’ve also provided a link to the legislation so you can read it and let us know what you think.