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California budget

State Senate panel throws support behind ballot measure to safeguard transportation funds

A Caltrans maintenance supervisor walks along a portion of a southbound 5 Freeway onramp where potholes and cracks are common in 2015. (Los Angeles Times)
A Caltrans maintenance supervisor walks along a portion of a southbound 5 Freeway onramp where potholes and cracks are common in 2015. (Los Angeles Times)

A state Senate panel on Tuesday supported a ballot measure that would prohibit the state from borrowing money from vehicle fees and gas taxes for use by non-transportation programs.

The measure by Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) is being considered as Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers negotiate toward a deal to make progress on a $132-billion backlog of repairs and improvements for local roads and state highways.

Tax and fee increases have been proposed to raise $5.5 billion annually for road repairs and transit.

Newman told the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday that said his proposed constitutional amendment is needed because “prior history raises concerns that new revenue may be diverted for other purposes.”

Republicans have criticized the state for taking $1 billion annually from truck weight fees and using the money to pay down general obligation bonds for transportation projects when those bonds in the past were covered by the general fund.

The committee voted 9-0 to support putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot. Republicans withheld their votes, saying they want more safeguards in the proposal. The measure still has to be approved by the full Senate and Assembly.

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