California Ballot Measure Will Propose New Fee to Fund Roads

Would you be willing to increase the annual license fee you pay on your vehicle if the funds were to go to road repair and expansion? That's the question Californians will be asked to decide if the Road Repairs Act qualifies for the Nov. 2014 ballot.

Known as the vehicle license fee (VLF), it had historically been set at 2 percent of a vehicle's resale value until a budget surplus caused then-Gov. Pete Wilson to reduce it to 0.65 percent in 1998. When the economy tanked, Gov. Gray Davis restored it to 2 percent in June, 2003, prompting his recall. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promptly rolled it back to .65 percent in Nov., 2003, creating a $6 billion structural budget deficit that plagued his tenure as governor.

Last year, Sen. Ted Lieu considered increasing the fee by 1.35 percent with funds going not to the cities, as they historically (PDF) had been allocated or for law enforcement as they are currently (PDF) allocated, but to transportation. His proposal, which would have created a legislative initiative allowing the voters to decide, according to Brian Leubitz of Calitics, was received with alarm even from fellow Democrats, so he backed down

Now two groups, Transportation California and the California Alliance for Jobs, will continue the effort through a citizen's ballot initiative, a route often taken for tax and budget measures unable to pass the legislature.

Jim Miller writes that "(t)he road repairs act calls for phasing in a road repairs fee of 1 percent of a vehicle's market value over four years, with the fee taking full effect by Jan. 1, 2018."

According to papers (PDF) filed with the Attorney General's Office on Nov. 18, "(t)he California Road Repairs Act would provide essential funding for critical road repairs, maintenance, and expansion across the state, including: maintaining and rehabilitating local streets and roads; repairing and replacing aging bridges; maintaining and expanding state freeways and highways to reduce traffic congestion; and investing in local mass transit and rail."

Miller writes that "Monday's filing seeks a title and summary. Once cleared for signature gathering, proponents would have up to 150 days to collect 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot."

Full Story: California transportation leaders seek car tax hike for road repairs

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