State passes $52B tax hike

Gov. Brown reportedly spent $1B in public money to secure votes

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A tax hike that will cost taxpayers $52 billion over the next decade was approved with minimum support in both upper and lower houses of the California legislature last week, despite strong opposition from Kern County members.

“It is deeply disappointing that legislative Democrats chose to punish Californians with tax increases after neglecting our roads for years,” said State Sen. Jean Fuller. “This out-of-touch plan will particularly hurt Californians struggling to make ends meet and give us all less than we deserve.

“It didn’t have to be this way. Assemblyman [Vince] Fong’s transportation bill was a better solution to fix our roads and bridges without raising a penny of new taxes.”

The Legislative Analysts Office estimated that, in addition to the aggressive tax and fee structure, the new taxes will drive up costs another 73 cents per gallon, which will in turn trigger a domino effect in risings costs in food, housing and other living essentials.

Fong pointed out when he unveiled his plan that Californians have already paid billions into funds set aside for improvements to infrastructure. Instead of spending that money on its intended use, the legislature has consistently swept the money into its general fund to finance other projects and services.

Both Fong and Fuller warned that there is no provision in the existing bill to prevent the same thing from happening with the latest tax increase.

“Families across the state will bear the burden of higher gas prices and higher fees to bail out Sacramento for the transportation crisis they created by neglecting our roads for decades,” said Fong.

“Before families have to change their budgets because of rising costs, Sacramento should first reexamine its own budget priorities.”

Republicans began expressing concerns last November, when Democrats in both the Senate and the Assembly secured a supermajority, that residents were now vulnerable to tax increases. However, a handful of moderate Democrats in both houses were reportedly resistant to Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to increase taxes.

Now that the plan has passed, reports have surfaced that Brown spent some $1 billion of public money to commit to projects in the districts of the swing voters in order to secure their support.

However, Democratic State Sen. Steve Glazner stood firm in his opposition, saying that the tax was unnecessary and that money should be redirected from the costly high-speed rail project. He voted no on the plan.

But State Sen. Anthony Canella, a Republican, voted yes — reportedly in exchange for a $400-million project that would extend a commuter rail line through his district.

Fong, who emerged as the early leader among the opposition, said that he will continue to fight the gas tax.

“You can help this effort by signing our petition,” he said. The online petition can be found at vincefong.com/gas-tax.

Story First Published: 2017-04-14