New 12-cent per gallon gas tax steps toward law

The California Legislature Thursday approved a $52.4 billion, 10-year gas tax and new annual vehicle fee increase intended to fix the state’s roads and make other transit improvements.

The legislation, dubbed the “Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017,” passed the Assembly with a vote of 54 to 46 and the Senate with a vote of 25 to 11.

Gov. Jerry Brown, one of the bill’s main champions, is expected to sign it into law soon. Brown said in a statement before the vote:

“Fixing our roads is basic. … If you don’t do it now it gets more expensive next year and the year after.”

The billions raised by the law will primarily come from a 12 cent per gallon hike in the gas tax, a 20 cent hike in the per gallon tax on diesel fuel and a new annual vehicle fee called the “Transportation Improvement Fee,” or TIF, according to the bill’s language.

The TIF charges include $25 annually for every vehicle with a value of up to $4,999, a $50 charge for every vehicle worth between $5,000 and $24,999, $100 for vehicles worth between $25,000 and $34,999, $150 for vehicles worth $35,000 and $59,999 and $175 for vehicles worth $60,000 and higher.

The bill also requires a $706 million repayment of transportation loans to the state’s general fund over the next three years and it earmarks $26.6 billion for local projects and $25.8 billion for state projects.

The money is intended to fix potholes, repave roadways, reduce congestion and improve public transportation, among other things.

The bill is supported by organized labor groups, chambers of commerce, the state’s associations of cities and counties as well as local and regional transportation agencies, including the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Many business groups, including the Bay Area Council, also support the bill.  Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman said:

“This historic vote will help reverse decades of decline in California’s transportation system.”

The bill is not without its detractors, however.

Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer, whose East Bay District includes Walnut Creek, Concord, Antioch, Pleasanton and Livermore, voted against it.

Glazer said in a statement:

“Sentiment in my district ran two-to-one opposing these new gas taxes and car registration fees. … This bill… failed to ensure that any new transportation funding given to local transportation agencies be used only for the purposes intended and not diverted to other uses.”

It also included “last-minute amendments” that “will unwisely limit our ability to control diesel pollution from trucks,” Glazer said.

The amendments prevent the state from requiring truckers to retire or replace trucks before they’re 13 years old and were opposed by some environmental groups.