May 24, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Major Highway Repairs Unlikely In 2016:

It will be no surprise if Californians don’t see many needed highway repairs getting underway in the next year. For the Jerry Brown administration says it will take $59 billion to repair state roads and another $78 billion to fix those maintained by cities and counties.

This magnitude of repair money is not available from the state’s general fund or from current gasoline taxes, which are carved up into many pieces, the money going for things like building hydrogen refueling stations and mass transit in addition to fixing roads.

So it will take either higher gas taxes or a major bond issue to bring California highways up to the standards they enjoyed for more than 50 years prior to about 1990, when raids on the gasoline tax fund began in earnest.

But Republicans hold just over one-third of the seats in both houses of the state Legislature, and they are adamantly against new taxes, especially any that might be proposed by the majority Democrats. It would take at least one GOP vote in both the Assembly and the state Senate to get the two-thirds vote needed for a gas tax hike without a general election vote.

Plus, no bond money could possibly be available until the middle of 2017, even if legislators manage to settle on how much to borrow and then convince voters to okay their plan.

There are three roots to the state’s difficulties in getting new highway money. One is the long history of politicians “borrowing” from the gas-tax-fueled highway fund and then not repaying the money in a timely way. That leaves a lot of Californians distrustful of putting more money there.

A second problem is the GOP’s longstanding opposition to new taxes of any kind. Ever since President George H.W. Bush famously intoned at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, “Read my lips… No New Taxes!” and then reneged on his pledge, only to be dumped from office after just one term, his fellow Republicans have been loath to okay any new levy.

Third is the general level of public distrust for state government and the bond issues it proposes. One such bond was to fund high speed rail, but the current bullet train plan is so far afield from what voters okayed that it draws opposition even from Quentin Kopp, the former judge and state senator who was a leading progenitor of the entire concept. Other major agencies have been caught in corruption and cronyism, but don’t bother to change the rules that permitted it, and Gov. Brown exerts no pressure for such repairs.

And what if a bond issue does make the November ballot? It could be buried among as many as four dozen other propositions and get little attention from voters even if many millions were spent to promote it. If that bond proposal were written to provide money for other programs, thus freeing up general fund budget money for roadwork, voters might be distrustful that highway money would even really be voted, seeing anything like this as more likely to create a massive slush fund for politicians to draw upon as they please.

But Brown remains optimistic about getting at least something done. “The roads are going to get fixed,” he told reporters last fall. “Whether it takes a week, a month, a year or two, ultimately…it’s just a question of when.”

That’s probably right, but the when probably won’t arrive in 2016 or anytime before Democrats somehow manage to capture two-thirds majorities in the Legislature. They had that margin sporadically between 2012 and 2014, but only for short intervals, as several Democratic legislators vacated their seats to run for other offices, leaving Assembly or Senate seats unoccupied and unable to contribute to supermajorities.

In the meantime, there’s enough money for the most urgent repairs, like the repaving, lane and offramp replacements prominently visible now on two of the state’s main north-south highways, Interstate 5 and California 99.

But not enough for new roads, new ramps, replacing most worn-out bridges or fixing even very bumpy, pothole-riddled pavement.

in Opinion
Related Posts

​​Doubt Removed: Oil Refiners Gouging Us

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist There was some room for doubt back in February, when gasoline prices rose precipitously: Until the...

Is the Big Housing Crunch Mostly Fiction?

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist In some parts of California, there is definitely a housing crunch: small supplies of homes for...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better & Not Necessary! – Part 2

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

The dream of our beachfront city is about to become a nightmare! Just imagine a tsunami of these projects washing...

Column From Santa Monica Mayor Himmelrich: We Walk the Talk

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Sue Himmelrich, Santa Moncia Mayor  I like the SMa.r.t. architects. I often agree with them. But in allowing Mark...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better!

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

It’s appalling to see what’s happening in our city – projects recently built or about to be approved – in...

Renting Your Second Home

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

If you are among the many Americans who own a second home that you occasionally use as a vacation getaway,...

Column: Cities Fight to Maintain Distinctive Characters

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Anyone who knows California well will realize that Palo Alto does not look much like nearby...

SMa.r.t. Column: Gelson’s, Boxed-In

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

This week we are re-visiting an article from 2018 regarding the Miramar project, by simply replacing the word “Miramar” with...

Column: Are You Talking Yourself Out of Saving for Retirement? Here’s How to Break the Habit

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Saving for retirement can be an abstract concept. It’s something we all know we should do, but the farther away...

SMa.r.t. Column: Failure to Plan…

April 30, 2022

April 30, 2022

Over the last approximately two years your City has been busy trying to respond to new California laws that are...

Letter to Editor: Your “Standing Firm With Santa Monica” Initiative

April 25, 2022

April 25, 2022

The following is an open letter to Councilmember Sue Himmelrich from Santa Monica resident Arthur Jeon regarding a proposed transfer...

SMa.r.t. Column: Planning The Real Future

April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022

In the 1970s, renowned USC architecture professor Ralph Knowles developed a method for planning and designing cities that would dramatically...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan: The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 15, 2022

April 15, 2022

Part II: Who pays the proposed transfer tax and where does the money go? Last week, we introduced the proposed...

Column: NIMBYs Getting a Bad Rap

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

By Tom Elias Rarely has a major group of Californians suffered a less deserved rash of insults and attacks than...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan – The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

Part 1 of 2 In this two-part article, we will discuss both the proposed transfer tax ballot initiative and the...