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California governor Jerry Brown has signed off on a $5.2 billion deal that will raise the tax on gasoline, raise the tax on diesel and raise user fees on motorists. Before the Memorial Day weekend, Brown ranted that those who complain about this tax hike are “freeloaders.” This doesn’t deserve a response, but taxpayers may find one helpful.
The tax hike is intended to fix California’s disastrous roads, but maintenance of roads is already part of California’s budget. Trouble is, as we noted, the California Department of Transportation developed a model for the allocation of maintenance funds but abandoned it because it would have reduced more than 100 Caltrans staff positions. Caltrans distributes funding based the previous spending patterns of the region in question, whatever the road conditions. Taxpayers might also recall that for years the state has diverted $1.5 billion in transportation infrastructure taxes to subsidize California’s General Fund bond payments.
Anybody who drives already pays substantial gas taxes every time they fill up, so in no sense are working motorists “freeloaders.” California workers already pay the highest income and sales taxes in the nation, and they are weary of government shaking them down for more. Taxpayers might note that Brown and the legislature made zero cuts to the state’s bloated bureaucracy and failed to trim wasteful spending. Brown and the legislature could have scrapped the $70 billion “bullet train” boondoggle, and $15 billion to dig tunnels under the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. Fixing the roads and building new ones would be a better application for those funds.
As is happens, Caltrans employs more than 3,000 engineers who basically do nothing but Brown is okay with that sort of parasite, common in state government. The first recourse of California’s hereditary, recurring governor, is to punish the workers with higher taxes and fees then abuse them as “freeloaders.” As working taxpayers may recall, this is the same governor who responded “I mean, look, shit happens,” to safety lapses on the new span of the Bay Bridge, a project that came in 10 years late and $5 billion over budget.