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Enough, already: Raiding Proposition 42 funds violates voters’ will

It’s time to put an end to the annual “theft” of gas taxes by permanently
removing the authority of the Legislature to suspend the transfer of
Proposition 42 money. That’s why I have introduced Assembly Constitutional
Amendment 4 to dedicate gas tax revenue to California’s much-needed
transportation projects.

In 2002, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 42–an
initiative that earmarked gasoline sales taxes to finance
transportation-related projects such as congestion relief, highway
improvements and freeway expansion.

From Eureka to San Diego, Californians indicated that they were sick and
tired of driving on pothole-ridden roads and wasting hours in standstill
traffic on freeways.

I don’t have to tell you that California has some of the worst highway
traffic in the nation. The American Highway Users Alliance included seven
California interchanges on its list of America’s 24 Worst Highway
Bottlenecks. In a 2003 study, the Texas Transportation Institute found that
Los Angeles had the most crowded roads in the nation, with San Francisco
coming in a close second, and San Jose in seventh.

Truckers stuck in traffic means commerce and business move slowly, and
everyone pays more for goods and services. Commuters stuck in traffic can’t
get to work and return home on time–and their families pay the price. County
and city officials–those closest to the problem –have had their hands tied
financially, leaving them hindered in their efforts to untangle California’s
great transportation mess.

In passing Proposition 42, the people of California saying that the time had
come to dedicate more resources to transportation projects and ease traffic
gridlock across the state once and for all.

Problem solved, right? Not necessarily.

Because of a loophole in Proposition 42, the Legislature is allowed to
suspend the transfer of the gasoline tax dollars in times of financial
troubles.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened since its passage. Nearly
$3.6 billion that should have been devoted to critical transportation
projects was withheld by the politicians to pay for their overspending.

Thanks to the leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger, the 2005 budget fully
funds Proposition 42, and his proposed 2006 budget does the same, but
commuter and local government officials aren’t counting their transportation
dollars yet.

The big spenders in Sacramento could just as easily once again raid the gas
taxes as they have two of the past three years.

That’s why we need ACA 4. My common-sense measure directs gas tax dollars
where they belong–to our state’s critical transportation projects. It’s
time to fix California’s transportation problems, and passing ACA 4 will
make it happen.

Fully funding Proposition 42 is one of the fastest ways for freeways and
highways to get built in our state. Infusing gas tax money will make an
almost immediate difference in getting long delayed projects back on track
and finally completed.

But opponents of ACA 4 see it differently. They claim my measure would
remove flexibility for the Legislature to move money around as the budget
warrants. In other words, they don’t want to rescind the Legislature’s power
to “move money around” because that would eliminate the option for political
game-playing with what they incorrectly view as free money.

ACA 4 restores a reliable and stable source of dedicated money for local and
state transportation projects; just as the voters of California demanded. It
forbids the Legislature to dip into what has become a convenient piggy bank,
and thereby forces elected officials to act in a responsible manner when
balancing the state’s budget.

Closing the loophole in Prop. 42 is a key component in the reform package
presented by Assembly Republicans. By passing common-sense reforms like
pay-as-you-go, design build and public private partnership, we can meet our
state’s infrastructure needs so California can build now, build more, and
spend less.


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