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Californians already pay a premium for good roads
George Runner
George Runner - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats recently announced a deal to create a new car tax and raise the state's gas tax by 40 percent. If passed, the proposal would cost Californians $52 billion over the course of a decade.

If you thought you were safe because you drive an electric vehicle, the transportation package includes a new $100 annual fee for zero emission vehicles. Elite, cosmopolitan Democrats claim our roads can't be fixed with the money we already send to Sacramento. Why not?

California residents pay a hefty premium to live in the state. You'd think in return we'd at least have high-quality roads. Instead, our state's roads are consistently ranked as some of the worst in the nation, with the Bay Area leading the way.

Democratic leaders are calling this massive tax hike a "pay-as-you-go" plan. That's a rather curious name when you consider the following:

Californians already pay $4.5 billion to $5 billion a year in fuel taxes. That's not including weight fees, registration fees or local sales taxes.

According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, the state's failing cap-and-trade program adds an additional 12 cents per gallon to fuel costs. That's an additional $2 billion a year, much of which has been directed to high-speed rail. Not one cent has gone toward fixing roads.

State revenues have grown by nearly 50 percent since 2008, from $83 billion to $122 billion today.

If there isn't enough money for roads after all we've paid, it makes you wonder what Californians have been paying for the whole time.

If Brown's plan to raise the gas tax passes, we could end up paying as much as 80 cents in combined federal and state taxes for each gallon of gasoline - a rate far higher than any other state. Not to mention we already have some of the highest gas prices in the nation.

Democrats have had nearly complete control over state government for several years. Not investing in our roads sooner makes you wonder if they have intentionally let our infrastructure crumble to create support for tax hikes.

Even still, California already leads the nation in high taxes and poverty. But this fact hasn't deterred lawmakers from pushing hard to ram this so-called deal through the Legislature with a self-imposed deadline of April 6.

The governor claims this proposal has a few things even conservatives will like, such a constitutional mandate that the money collected from these colossal tax hikes be spent on transportation. At first glance, you might be fooled into thinking that's a good thing.

However, Californians have been down this road twice before.

In 2002, voters passed Proposition 42, a constitutional amendment meant to ensure that motor vehicle sales taxes be used for transportation purposes. Voters followed up in 2006 with Proposition 1A, because politicians found loopholes to spend these dollars on other projects.

Critics who say we need higher taxes haven't been to a state like Arizona, which has a much lower gas tax of 18 cents per gallon and extreme weather conditions that destroy roads. Yet, Arizona has far better roads than California.

Budgets are about setting priorities, and we should drive home that point by holding our elected officials accountable for the decisions they've made with the money we send to Sacramento.

Call your legislative representative and tell them you're already paying a lot for roads. The money just needs to be spent properly.

George Runner is vice chair of the California State Board of Equalization. He can be contacted at