Published in Fox and Hounds Daily
Why is Jerry Brown insisting that legislators quickly rubber stamp his $52 Billion gas tax increase?
The reason is simple. He knows that if legislators go back to their districts over the upcoming Spring break recess, they will get an earful from outraged constituents.
Voting for a regressive, 43% gas tax increase in a state that already has the nation’s highest poverty rate means Democrats in swing districts are facing certain blowback at the polls. Add to that the outrageous and shameful record of mismanagement at CalTrans, and it is virtually certain that voters will fire many of those who foolishly vote for this tax. The tax proposal would raise gas taxes by 43% and diesel taxes by a whopping 125%.
The proposal contains a window dressing amendment that would ostensibly keep the politicians from spending the money on other projects which is fine as far as it goes, but that is not the main objection.
Consider the following:
According to the Reason Foundation, California’s highway system ranks 42nd, while spending 4.7 times the national average for every mile of roadway we build. Texas, which is 19th on the list, spends a dollar on its roads for every $5.80 spent by California.
In awarding CalTrans its Golden Fleece Award, the Independent Institute noted that“…the irresponsible CalTrans has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and even lied to lawmakers to cover its track.” And now our Governor and Democratic legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate want to hand them another $52 billion.
How is it even possible for a department to spend nearly five times as much to do the same job as other states are spending? Senator John Moorlach has identified at least one of the problems. In other states, private businesses are encouraged to compete for state highway contracts, ensuring that taxpayers get the benefit of competitive bidding. On average, he notes that in most states about half of design and engineering work goes to private sector bidders. In Arizona and Florida, that number is 80%, but in California it is a paltry 10%. That means we, as a matter of policy, turn our backs on the best and the brightest that the private sector has to offer.
We also routinely discriminate against non-union workers, which explains who is paying for the massive radio and newspaper campaign currently underway promoting the tax increase. This, of course, reveals the corrupting influence of special interest money that funds legislators’ campaigns who then wipe out the competition and dish out pork projects to the donors.
Corruption isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s hurting all of us, including taxpayers and the working poor. Taxpayers are getting the bum’s rush in Sacramento and it’s time we sent them a message: not one more dime in taxes until you fix the mess at CalTrans.