Category Archives: News

Legislators Tackle Bills, Struggle With Big Items, As Clock Ticks In Sacramento

By John Myers and Marisa Lagos
SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

Legislators dealt at least a temporary blow on Tuesday to extending and expanding California’s landmark climate change law, as they counted down the final hours of their 2015 session.

Tuesday’s floor debates in the state Assembly and Senate saw action on several bills of note. Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year on Friday.

Led by a group of reluctant Democrats, the Assembly rejected Senate Bill 32, the effort by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to expand her landmark 2006 law.

The bill would mandate a cut in greenhouse gas levels of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by the year 2050. A group of Democrats and environmental justice groups rallied at an event in support of the bill Tuesday morning. But none of that convinced as many as a dozen Democratic Assembly members who did not vote for the bill later in the afternoon.

Pavley, in a written statement, said that the vote came “while many members were not on the floor and before several had a chance to review the recent amendments.” She vowed to bring it back up for another vote before the end of the week.

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Most Americans would support higher gas taxes – under certain conditions

A telephone survey by the California-based Mineta Transportation Institute found that the majority of Americans would support higher fuel taxes, but only if the revenue is invested in specific transportation improvements.

A gas fuel increase of 10 cents per gallon to improve road maintenance was supported by 71 per cent of respondents, whereas support levels dropped to just 31 per cent if the revenues were to be used more generally to maintain and improve the transportation system.

The survey findings have implications for current Congressional discussions about funding the transportation infrastructure.

Two proposed federal bills would raise gas tax rates. One would index the gas tax to inflation and create a bi-partisan, bi-cameral transportation commission that would provide long-term funding of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Another proposed bill would increase the fuel tax by five cents per year for three years. If either bill is to gain support, legislators must be confident that increases in transportation taxes and fees would be politically feasible.

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Drivers need a fix for battered roads, and Republicans should learn from history

George Skelton, LOS ANGELES TIMES. September 2, 2015.
george.skelton​@latimes.com

Long for the good old days when California enjoyed the smoothest highways in America? Well, back then, there wasn’t a roadblock on taxes to finance them.

The route to fewer potholes and less frustrating car commutes is more money. It’s pretty simple really, despite Republican political pitches and self-denial.

Republicans are right about one thing: Current money could be spent more wisely. And what a waste that botched bullet train is. Diverting high-speed rail money to road repairs, however, is probably illegal and a non-starter.

Here’s the main problem for highways: Decades ago when California roads were the national envy, the federal government was kicking in barrels of money. And the state could raise its own gasoline taxes on a majority legislative vote.

Let’s not forget: It was a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who initiated the interstate highway system and raised the gasoline tax to pay for it. Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush also hiked the gas tax.

“The cost to the average motorist will be small, but the benefit to our transportation system will be immense,” Reagan said in signing a nickel-a-gallon increase in 1983.

Today, Washington is gridlocked on highway funding. Attempts to hike the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal tax have hit a dead end. But at least in Congress a tax can be boosted on a majority vote.

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Adwatch: Oil interests mislead about vehicle monitoring

August 31, 2015.

Highlights:

  • Barrage of advertising comes amid debate over sweeping climate bill
  • Law won’t limit how often Californians can drive

BY DAVID SIDERS
dsiders@sacbee.com
The California Drivers Alliance, a group funded by the Western States Petroleum Association, is running a TV ad opposing Senate Bill 350, which would require the state to reduce petroleum use in motor vehicles by 50 percent and increase the proportion of electricity derived from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

The bill, a sweeping effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has become one of the most contentious bills at the Capitol this year. After the Senate passed the measure, oil companies released a flood of advertising targeting moderate Democrats in the Assembly, which has yet to act.

In the TV ad, a man standing in front of a parked car addresses the camera directly.

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Drivers could soon be charged by the mile

Craig Herrera
6:20 PM, Aug 26, 2015
10:37 AM, Aug 29, 2015

SAN DIEGO – You could soon be charged for every mile you drive. It’s a proposal being considered right now by California lawmakers.

The hope is to generate 60 billion dollars in the next 20 years. The question is how this will be possible. Some say the answer is to keep tabs on your trips.

Harlan German drives a moving truck for a living for Sullivan Moving and Storage.

“A big trip for me, oh it would be something like 200 to 300 miles,” said German.

When he’s behind the wheel, those miles can quickly add up.

“I’m on the road and I’m going a lot of miles, and now we have to pay for the miles we’re going?” asked German.

That possibility is part of a pilot program starting later this year in California.

“Generally speaking, people see this as a user paid approach. They’re used to it already with their cellphone bills, their cable TV, you pay for what you use,” said California Transportation Commissioner Jim Madaffer.

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NZ Minister speech to Road Transport Forum

Friday, 28 August 2015, 5:19 pm
Speech: New Zealand Government
Simon Bridges

28 AUGUST, 2015

Road Transport Forum 2015

Good afternoon and thank you for having me here – it is great to have the opportunity to speak to you today, my first such opportunity as Transport Minister.

I want to talk to you about three things:

• Our priorities and investment as a country in transport infrastructure

• Demand management and road pricing

• High Productivity Motor Vehicles

Investment in transport infrastructure

On 1 July the new Government Policy Statement on land transport (GPS 2015) and the new National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) came into effect.

At $13.9 billion over three years, this represents the largest investment in land transport – including roads, public transport, cycling and road safety promotion – in New Zealand’s history.

The Government’s key priorities for this investment are economic growth and productivity, road safety, and value for money. I know you share these same priorities.

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Susan J. Demas: Gov. Snyder and Republicans still can't figure out how to fix Michigan's roads

By Susan J. Demas | Political columnist for MLive.com
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on August 28, 2015 at 6:00 AM, updated August 28, 2015 at 9:58 AM

When Proposal 1 spectacularly crashed at the polls almost four months ago, assorted political sages declared the plan was too complicated.

The road-funding proposal was a cornucopia of tax increases and policies that raised $2 billion annually. But I remain unconvinced that it was too difficult to message.

The real problem was supporters didn’t bother telling us why we didn’t have enough money for roads in the first place and how the plan worked.

Regardless, we were all told after the May 5 massacre that voters would go for a simple solution.

And, indeed, there is one: We have to raise taxes.

We’ve underfunded and neglected our roads for years, giving us some of the worst ones in the nation. Now the bill is due.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder knows this. Senate Majority Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, knows this. And the leadership of the state’s most powerful conservative interest group, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, knows this.

Increasing and restructuring the gas tax probably makes the most sense at this point. I don’t think Michiganders will buy the chamber’s messaging that it’s a “user fee” (not a “real” tax hike). But paying more for gas and getting better roads seems like a reasonable tradeoff.

The problem is that raising taxes is really painful for Republicans to do. And that’s why no one has cobbled enough votes for a compromise that could pass both the GOP-controlled state House and Senate.

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Roads fix must put real dent in repair backlog

BY JIM EARP, MATT CATE AND CHRIS MCKENZIE
Special to The Bee

California is home to some of the nation’s most deteriorated streets, highways and bridges, with four of the five cities with the worst road conditions in the United States and 55 percent of local bridges requiring rehabilitation or replacement. This disrepair is costing California motorists the most – nearly $762 annually per driver on average, and even more in some areas.

Without adequate funding to maintain the current system, one-quarter of all California’s local streets and roads will be in failed condition in just nine years, and the unfunded backlog would grow by another $21 billion.

Fortunately, Gov. Jerry Brown convened a special session so that the Legislature can address our chronically neglected transportation infrastructure.

Our organizations are part of a broad coalition of cities and counties, businesses, transportation planners and labor unions that are ready to work with legislative leaders on a funding solution, while demanding strict accountability from local and state government over our tax dollars.

We are united behind basic principles that we believe should guide a transportation-funding plan.

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The States Show Up Congress on Road Repairs

By The Editorial Board, New York Times, Aug. 22, 2015

As the nation’s bridges and roads deteriorate and Congress dawdles over a serious solution, statehouse politicians have been stepping up at a surprising rate to make some difficult choices.

At least half the states have passed transportation funding measures in the last two years to raise some of the billions of dollars needed to repair frayed bridges, highways and mass transit systems that increasingly bedevil commuters and businesses, threatening safety and undermining local economies.

States still need the federal funds that they rely on for about half their capital expenditures related to transportation. But governors and legislatures, fed up with delay, have been approving higher fuel taxes, vehicle fees and construction bonds with little hesitation, while the Republican Congress remains stuck on its no-new-taxes campaign mantra.

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My OReGO experience: The latest

My experiment with OReGO, Oregon’s mileage tax program, is proving more interesting than expected. And I can see where, before this approach to road taxation can ever become widespread, let alone mandatory, adjustments will have to be made.

One problem is the tax rate per mile, now 1.5 cents. At that rate, the state gets less road money than now from owners of vehicles that average roughly 20 miles per gallon or less. The way it works for me, every time I drive my truck, the state owes me a fraction of a cent because of the 30-cent-per-gallon fuel tax that I’ve already paid.

Oregon needs more money for roads, not less, so the 1.5-cent rate is too low. The alternative is for the legislature to force all vehicles to pay the mileage tax, even those that yield little or no gas tax revenue now. Imagine the howls of protest when all owners of hybrids and all-electric vehicles are faced with having to pay a higher road tax.

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