Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) recently expressed his thoughts and feelings related to the passage of the state’s controversial Gas Tax legislation: Senate Bill 1 (SB1). The bill passed earlier this month when it barely attained the two-thirds majority required for passage—only one Republican voted in favor of the legislation.
The state’s historic legislation, currently awaiting Governor Brown’s signature to become law, is projected to raise nearly $5.2 billion a year.
Controversy that plagued the legislation throughout the legislative process reached a boiling point during the final hours before the bill’s vote. Many Democratic legislators, including some in Riverside County, reportedly cut deals in exchange for their votes. Those deals were for the specific benefit of the communities and constituents they represent.
As the governor and his supporters celebrated their legislative victory, Morrell pointed to what he defined as discrepancies between what the Democrats claimed about the transportation legislation and what he called the actual facts. “Many claims have been made about how much drivers will pay and how exactly the money will be spent,” he said.
He challenged the claim that money generated by the bill will only go to fund roads. “There is $750 million per year for transit and $100 million per year for active transportation like biking and walking,” he noted. He also pointed to $7 million per year in the legislation for university research and another $5 million allocated annually to pre-apprenticeship programs. He further noted that Sections 28 and 30 of SB1 will divert $80 million per year to parks.
Morrell next disputed the Democrats’ claim that because the legislature had not increased transportation funding for 23 years, road repairs now receive only 50 percent of the funding value they did in 1994. “Democrats are responsible for diverting billions of dollars away from transportation for the past five years,” he asserted. “They created the problem, and now we are faced with the consequences of it – their gas and car tax increase, the largest gas tax increase in California history.”
He also questioned the Democrats’ assertion that the bill has reforms that lessen red tape for road construction and repair. “Any opportunity for real reform was lost when Democrats refused to pursue efficiencies meant to reduce red tape,” he proclaimed. “They could have streamlined and sped up road repair and construction projects to actually reduce congestion. But that would have meant Democrats make actual reforms.”
Morrell then challenged claims that the taxes will end after 10 years. “Not only are the taxes and fees permanent, they automatically increase annually beginning in 2020,” he stressed. “Democrats are selling you on a 10-year plan, but it actually goes on forever and the money can be reallocated with a simple majority vote.”
Also, according to the Senator, despite claims SB1 dollars will not be used for the state’s High-Speed Rail project, Section 31 qualifies to fund the operation of High-Speed Rail. No section of the bill prevents money from being diverted or reallocated to fund the train, and part of the constitution allows gas tax revenue to be spent on public mass transit, which would include High-Speed Rail.
In addition, Morell took issue with Democrats who claimed the legislation will reduce traffic congestion and improve commutes. He claimed: “Less than 5 percent of the funds can go to reduce traffic congestion—$5.2 billion dollars spent per year and there are no meaningful reforms or solutions to reduce traffic and smog.”
According to Morrell, SB1 will cost taxpayers much more than the projected $52 billion over the next ten years. “It is likely that the taxes will cost drivers much more,” he claimed. “78 percent of California communities rely solely on trucking for delivery of goods. If the price of shipping goes up, that cost will have to be passed onto consumers, affecting everything from grocery bills to school shopping.”
“The California Manufacturing and Technology Association,” he stressed, “estimated that cap and trade, including the hidden gas tax, would cost families as much as $2,500 per year in additional expenses.”