Scott McGolpin, the county’s public works director, was seriously aggravated last week because an effort to grant $15 million of state funds for road repairs appears defunct. Technically, the bill — SBX1-1 — to increase the state gasoline tax does not expire until November 30, but the Speaker of the Assembly’s Office announced on Friday the special session would not resume for the rest of this month.
McGolpin lamented that the gasoline tax has not been touched since 1994. With inflation and increased vehicle fuel efficiency, state revenues have decreased by more than 25 percent in the last three years, according to his office. “This is about restoring the buying power,” he said. The bill would raise $6 billion for the entire state, about half of which would go to local governments. Combined, area cities would receive $15 million.
“Everyone understands the need. It is just figuring out the fix,” McGolpin said. So why is the measure on the brink of expiration? McGolpin could not say for sure. He noted that the three area legislators — State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and assemblymembers Das Williams and Katcho Achadjian — agreed a solution is needed.. But tax increases require two-thirds of the vote to pass. “Anytime you have to achieve that threshold, it makes things that much more complicated,” said Kiana Valentine, a representative with the California State Association of Counties.
Valentine opined that the recent weeks leading up to the presidential election could have distracted them from the “business at hand.” It is possible for the bill to be reincarnated in January, but that could prolong the effort indefinitely. Valentine noted that the new presidency creates “a lot of unknowns.” Other key issues such as immigration and health care “could definitely sideline the transportation conversation,” she said. Statewide, streets face an estimated $78 billion in deferred maintenance, according to the Fix Our Roads Coalition. The county has a $259 million backlog, according to Public Works.