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New transportation funding plan calls for gas tax hike of 17 cents per gallon

Vehicles pass a highway construction site on Interstate 80 in Sacramento last year. (Associated Press)
Vehicles pass a highway construction site on Interstate 80 in Sacramento last year. (Associated Press)

Two Democratic lawmakers unveiled a $7.4-billion transportation plan late Wednesday, the latest effort to break through a yearlong logjam over the state’s funding woes.

The plan, highlighted by an increase of 17 cents per gallon in the gas tax, comes from Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) and Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) in an attempt to unify the disparate proposals the pair had previously introduced in their respective houses.

The combined plan is more than double Gov. Jerry Brown's $3.6-billion proposal, which calls for a 6-cent gas tax hike.

"We need to be able to have a big plan to be able to be effective and catch back up," Frazier said. 

Last summer, Brown called a special session of the Legislature to highlight the $130-billion backlog in state and local road repairs, as well as the billions more in other transportation budget deficits. But lawmakers have made little progress, especially with gas tax hikes — which would require a bipartisan supermajority vote — on the table.

Republican lawmakers have previously shown little appetite for a tax increase, instead pitching a plan that would eliminate vacant state worker positions and reallocate existing dollars — including from the state’s climate change programs — toward transportation spending.

Earlier this week, GOP assemblymembers renewed their efforts to focus on transportation funding, starting a social media campaign to highlight the hours Californians spend stuck in traffic each year.

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, Frazier said he was open to calling lawmakers back in a November lame-duck session to resolve transportation funding.

"If that's what it takes," he said.

Among other changes and aside from the 17-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase, which would be indexed to inflation, the Frazier-Beall plan also includes:

  • A diesel tax increase of 30 cents per gallon, also indexed to inflation
  • $165 annual fee for zero-emission vehicles
  • The creation of an Office of Transportation inspector general to oversee state spending
  • Greater environmental streamlining for repairing existing transportation infrastructure

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