As if gas prices weren't high enough in California, the gas tax will rise again on July 1st.
An annual inflation adjustment was part of the transportation tax package enforced by law and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2017. The law known as SB 1 increased the cost of gasoline per gallon by 12 cents on November 1, 2017, then an additional 5.6 cents on July 1, 2019, and 3.2 cents more on July 1, 2019. The next upward revision will be the Bring California excise tax on gas to 51.1 cents per gallon. SB 1 also raised taxes on diesel fuel and increased the cost of registering a vehicle.
California has the highest gas taxes in the nation. According to the American Petroleum Institute, state taxes and fees add 63.05 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline. Including federal taxes, Californians pay 81.45 cents per gallon in government-imposed fees. It's even higher for diesel fuel, with state taxes and fees of 83.06 cents per gallon, 107.46 cents when federal taxes are added.
So Californians pay a lot of taxes, but how much do we get for road repairs and maintenance?
According to a November Reason Foundation study, 28.5% of California's urban roads are in poor condition. This is the third worst rank in the country. Nationwide, on average, only 12.06% of the carriageway is classified as “poor”.
This is based on road condition data collected in 2018, when California was experiencing a massive backlog in delayed maintenance. The state's long habit of levying fuel taxes but failing to keep promised road maintenance has helped fuel distrust of the government. During a 2018 campaign to lift the gas tax hike, Caltrans showed voters a website with a list of projects and promised those projects would be completed.
Unsurprisingly, Caltrans doesn't have enough money to complete all of the projects that have been promised across the state. In a report to the California Transportation Commission, Caltrans said, "Funds available will meet approximately 45% of total identified needs."
The Reason Foundation report notes that while the national average cost of road maintenance was $ 15,952 per mile in 2018, California was due to labor laws requiring the highest wages in the region, as well as the generally high costs in the region State pays about twice as much. California taxpayers pay the highest possible price for anything the government builds or maintains.
Caltrans says it has managed to improve 6,400 road miles in the past three years. The repair rate it claims is 40% better than it was before SB 1's tax hike.
Republican lawmakers serving on the legislature's transportation committees were not impressed. Senator Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, called it "an insult to California drivers forcing them to pay the highest gas taxes in the country and then saying it wasn't enough." Rep. Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield said, "Taxpayers have done their part."
California taxpayers have once again faced higher taxes and lackluster results and will soon have to pay even more.