The Federal Highway Trust Fund will expire on July 31 and California’s highways are falling apart. The businesses and residents of California are angry and frustrated by the lack of focus on transportation at both the State and Federal level. Tax revenue is growing in Washington DC and Sacramento but none of that new revenue is going to transportation.
Transportation funding at both the State and Federal level is largely dependent on a per gallon gasoline tax that has been stagnant for years because the tax per gallon has not been increased at the State or Federal level for decades and the development of more fuel efficient cars has lowered the per mile revenue from every vehicle on the road. This has been welcome news for drivers and a major blow to the funding needed to maintain the quality of our transportation infrastructure.
Governor Brown has called a special session on transportation funding and the first hearing was held on June 2. It makes sense for the state to use some of its new general fund revenue for transportation improvements and to add to that funding pool an increase in other revenue sources that are directly related to the drivers that use our streets and highways.
In Congress, the Senate has made some progress on a bi-partisan bill to authorize a new Surface Transportation bill, but revenue to grow the Highway Trust Fund was not part of the proposal. The House has been less aggressive and seems content to vote for another five month extension.
Funding for transportation infrastructure is not an easy problem to solve, but it must be addressed if America is to efficiently move its people and products. Both our quality of life and our economy are at risk. Yes, it will cost money. Money that I believe businesses and residents are willing to pay if they see results in the quality and efficiency of their transportation networks.
Building a transportation network that meets the needs of a growing economy and the challenges of an aging infrastructure requires money and each of us must be prepared to pay for a portion of that cost. We also have the right to demand that more of the tax dollars we are already paying should be earmarked for transportation. I hope you will join me in sending that message to Congress and to our State Legislature. Traffic and potholes are not getting better as we wait.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.