Taxes vs. reform — Transportation negotiations continue

TrafficWatching the maneuvering to pass a transportation revenue package in the special session, I can’t help but think of the observation by that great philosopher Yogi Berra who said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” The legislative scrum over a legislative roads fix is similar to the struggle to find common ground before Proposition 30 was put on the ballot.

Remember those days at the beginning of Governor Jerry Brown’s third term. Brown tried to pick off a few Republican votes to secure the two-thirds margin he needed to put a tax increase measure on the ballot. In return, the Republicans who were courted by Brown sought reforms to the spending side of the budget, particularly, a spending limit and a rainy day fund. Pressured by public employee unions, Democrats in the legislature showed no interest in accepting these reforms.

The effort to achieve a compromise package went nowhere. The governor then turned to the ballot, working with union groups already pushing a tax increase initiative to create Proposition 30.

On transportation in the special session, Democrats put forward a series of tax and fee increases. Republicans countered with a package of spending proposals using cap-and-trade dollars, redirecting current transportation revenues for the roads, re-doing Caltrans employment and reconsidering the high-speed rail project.

Republican senate leader Bob Huff said there is no support for tax increases in his caucus. Democratic majorities in committee killed the Caltrans and high-speed rail proposals. Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said taking money from cap and trade for the roads is not a serious proposal. “There is no nexus between greenhouse gas emissions and potholes,” he said.

Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, which supports a compromise that would include both tax increases and re-directing cap-and-trade funds said, “Both sides will likely experience some pain, both sides will need to have some wins.”

At this stage there seems no give to accept any part of the plan put forth by the other side.

Negotiations will continue. But will history repeat itself if no deal is struck?

The forces behind the tax and fee increases could play the initiative card. With supporters in labor and big business, and if the governor endorses an initiative, they certainly have the wherewithal to qualify a measure for the ballot. But, how likely is it that voters would embrace a 12-cent per gallon gas tax increase and higher car registration fees if such a proposal qualified for the ballot?


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  1. Sean
    Sean 25 August, 2015, 10:05

    Great idea to put the transportation funding proposals on the ballot. Californians already pay $1 more per gallon for gasoline. I’m sure a mear $0.12 extra per gallon plus higher registrations fees for cars will be seen as a small price to pay to avoid another front end alignment.

    Reply this comment
  2. Colonel Bill Kilgore
    Colonel Bill Kilgore 25 August, 2015, 12:20

    Colliefornia has the highest gas taxes in the country when you factor in the AB32 global warming tax (and that tax will automatically go up every year). Yet Colliefornia has the worst roads in the nation.

    Don’t you idiots see that no matter how high taxes are they will never be high enough?

    Tax’em to the stone age, son!

    Tax’em good and hard, then tax’em again.

    Tax the shiite outta ’em.

    I love the smell of tax increases in the morning!

    Reply this comment
  3. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 25 August, 2015, 12:38

    Yeah, suckers — put it on the ballot. Bring it!

    Contrary to popular thinking, Californians are loath to levy higher taxes on themselves. Raise taxes on others? You bet! Soak the rich!! Soak smokers!! Soak corporations!!

    But “soak ME”??? Even though such a statewide tax increase needs only a simple majority vote of the electorate, and even though we taxpayer advocates will be outspent at least 20-1, I think we have a great shot at turning that tax down flat.

    Reply this comment
    • bob
      bob 25 August, 2015, 15:45

      I hope your are right but I wouldn’t bet on it. The majority of voters in this state are sheep. They passed Brown’s tax increases and the majority of local sales tax increases and bond measures pass in most elections. My fear is the voters will do as they are told and pass most of the tax increases on the next ballot.

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  4. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 25 August, 2015, 12:43

    Another great reason to put it on the ballot: If this new group of transportation taxes are on the ballot, that makes it hard to pass any OTHER tax.

    When voters see numerous tax increases that affect them on the same ballot, the tendency is to “just say no” to all of ’em. And a batch of tax increase props could have some marginal beneficial effect on GOP legislative candidates in competitive districts. The ONE area where the GOP can gain popular support in CA is on taxes.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 25 August, 2015, 18:02

    Pensions, choo choo’s, Medical……bend over…

    Reply this comment

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