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Driver Fees Would Fund Bulk of California Governor's Road Repair Plan

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

Drivers would pay higher fees and taxes to pay for a $3.6 billion road repair package proposed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday. 

Brown's plan includes an annual $65 per vehicle "Highway User Fee," along with an 11 percent diesel tax hike. The plan would attach the state's gasoline tax to the Consumer Price Index, which rises with inflation.

State officials have said California faces a $6 billion annual road maintenance shortfall. Brown made paying for that backlog a top priority in his Inaugural Address this year.

Supporters of Brown's proposal include Jim Earp of the California Alliance for Jobs. He says he’s hopeful that Brown and the Legislature can agree on a deal.

“If you look at what this package is costing, it’s about ten bucks a month. That is a pretty small price to pay for a very large benefit in our transportation infrastructure," Earp told Capital Public Radio.

A handful of Republican votes would be needed to move any deal through the Legislature. Republican leaders praised parts of the governor’s plan on Thursday, but emphasized that they won’t support any deal that includes higher taxes.

“The Governor deserves some credit for finally getting seriously engaged in the discussion of how we fix our roads,” said Senator Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. “But he’s ignoring the will of most Californians, who do not support additional tax hikes. Voters know they already pay some of the highest transportation tax rates in the nation and they want this money to be used to fix our roads, not siphoned off to other areas of the state budget.”

A spokesman for the governor said in an email that the plan includes "sensible reforms and sufficient revenue to improve our roads, bridges, public transit and trade corridors—all vital to boosting quality-of-life and economic competitiveness.”

Brown and lawmakers have one more week to try to reach a deal before the end of the legislative session.

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