Steering Vehicle Fees Toward Highway Projects

DATE: February 15, 2000
TO: Board of Supervisors
RE: STEERING VEHICLE FEES TOWARD HIGHWAY PROJECTS 

SUMMARY:
Each year, California motorists pay nearly $16 billion in vehicle and fuel taxes and fees. However, only half of that amount is actually spent on transportation projects. In addition, the federal government keeps six cents out of every federal gas tax dollar generated in California. Passage of this Board letter would begin the process of ensuring that all of the transportation-related funds collected from motorists are returned to the State and used solely for transportation improvement projects.

Recommendation: 
CHAIRWOMAN JACOB

1. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to work with the members of the San Diego Congressional delegation and our Washington legislative representative to support the passage of federal legislation directing the transportation-related fees and taxes generated by California, and San Diego motorists in particular, be returned to the State and to San Diego County respectively.

2. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to work with members of the San Diego State Legislative delegation, our Sacramento legislative representative, the California State Association of Counties and the California League of Cities to support the passage of State legislation requiring 100% of transportation-related fees and taxes generated by California motorists be used solely for freeway and road improvement projects.

3. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to draft a letter for the Chair's signature to Governor Davis expressing the Board's opposition to the Governor's proposals to 1) amend the State Constitution to allow truck weight fees and State gas taxes to be used for non-freeway and non- road projects, and 2) shift $45 million annually from the State Highway Account to support public transit and passenger rail service.

4. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to work with members of the San Diego State Legislative delegation, our Sacramento legislative representative and Governor Davis to secure a minimum of $1 billion of the fiscal year 2000-2001 State budget surplus for transportation improvement projects.

Fiscal Impact: 
These actions can be performed within the existing budget.

BACKGROUND: 
The State of California ranks 3rd in the nation in the amount of vehicle and fuel taxes and fees it generates. However, California ranks 50th in the nation in per capita spending for freeways and roads. This is unfair to San Diego and other California motorists who are forced to subsidize non-transportation projects every time they register their vehicles or fill up their tank. In addition to the Federal and State excise taxes and State and local sales taxes motorists pay at the pump, drivers must pay vehicle license fees, tolls, Department of Motor Vehicle fees, and truck weight fees. Unfortunately, much of the revenue from these fees is used for programs unrelated to transportation improvement.

In the last 20 years, only 64 miles of new freeway has been built in California. At the same time, San Diego motorists are struggling to deal with the daily gridlock of an inadequate road system. Correcting this situation begins by ensuring the San Diego region receives all of the transportation-related revenue generated by local motorists.

On the Federal level, six cents of every dollar generated in California is kept in Washington. While this may not sound like much, it would provide the State with an additional $168 million each year to fund freeway and road projects.

On the State level, only half of the $16 billion in car and fuel taxes paid by California drivers is spent on freeway and road projects. If we are to successfully address our local transportation needs, we need to stop the diversion of precious road and freeway funds and begin the process of spending 100 percent of these funds on transportation-related projects.

In his recently released 2000-2001 budget, Governor Davis would further reduce the amount of available transportation dollars. He has proposed amending the State Constitution to allow truck weight fees and State gas taxes to be used for non-freeway and non-road projects. Governor Davis also plans to shift $45 million annually from the State Highway Account to support public transit and passenger rail service. The Governor's plan is fundamentally flawed and unfair to California motorists. It would force motorists to subsidize services they do not use at the expense of the road system they use daily.

The State Legislative Analyst recently announced that this year's budget surplus is expected to total $6 billion. This Board letter asks the Governor and State Legislators to secure a minimum of $1 billion in the budget for additional transportation improvement projects. This would result in $84 million more in transportation improvement funds coming to San Diego County.

I urge you to support this action and begin the process of recapturing all transportation-related taxes and fees paid by motorists and directing them toward badly needed freeway and road projects in San Diego County.

Respectfully Submitted,

DIANNE JACOB
Chairwoman