California Board Action on Fuel Taxes Takes Big Bite Out of Transportation Funding

AASHTO Journal, 26 February 2016

Transportation planners had seen it coming, but a Feb. 23 action by the California Board of Equalization will reportedly shrink road and transit funding next year by about $328 million.

caltranslogo.png The tax board, as state law requires, trimmed the California gasoline excise fee by 2.2 cents a gallon as a result of falling pump prices. It had already cut the tax by 6 cents.

As a result, the California Transportation Commission on Jan. 21 looked at anticipated revenue and approved a construction program for the next five years that cut $754 million from projected available funding.

A commission announcement at the time said that decision “marks the largest scaling back of the state’s transportation program since the creation of the current funding structure nearly 20 years ago.”

It also emphasized that this would require withdrawing funds it previously committed to some projects, and said the total impact of delaying projects could reach billions of dollars since transportation projects usually involve funding from multiple sources.

The shrinking transportation budget comes as Gov. Jerry Brown has been urging lawmakers to agree on ways to substantially increase funding for Caltrans to invest in roads and transit.

A CBS/AP report said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty issued a statement in response to the tax board’s action, saying: “Although Caltrans will continue to prioritize safety projects, today’s action emphasizes the need for the comprehensive transportation funding package that the governor continues to call for.”

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