Senate Republicans Offer Reforms to Address Transportation Crisis

Thursday, July 16, 2015

SACRAMENTO - While Democrats continue to “talk” about how they must raise taxes to fix California’s roads, Senate Republicans continue to offer concrete proposals to transform how California maintains and builds its roads.

Senate Republicans are calling on the Governor and Legislative Democrats to join them in supporting legislation that ensures that existing transportation dollars are used for transportation projects, but also will look closely at finding new and innovative ways to improve this state’s crumbling infrastructure system.

Several new pieces of legislation were introduced into the Special Session on Transportation Infrastructure today by Senate Republicans that, if approved, would require taxes that are collected from transportation sources to be spent on transportation projects, while improving project delivery times and reducing costs to taxpayers.

“This transportation crisis requires that we look at everything,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-San Dimas). “That includes reforming how we build and improve our roads, ensuring that process is more transparent. This package of bills also brings more accountable and transparency to Caltrans. In addition, we need to start giving more control over to the locals who have boots on the ground and can actually assess what is needed and get it built more quickly and efficiently than the bureaucrats in Sacramento.”

Among the new pieces of legislation introduced today are:

  • SB 9, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) starts to change the culture at Caltrans by making sure California doesn’t use  temporary funding such as bond funds or loan repayments to support permanent, ongoing state positions that continue with full salary and benefits long after all the work is done. This bill would also utilize more private contracts to get transportation construction projects completed in a timely fashion.

  • SB 10, Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) brings more local control to the process by converting the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) into a grant program. This transition would give local agencies the flexibility to use funds like a block grant and prioritize the projects that are important to them and would streamline project approval to get high priority projects completed as quickly as possible.

  • SB 11, Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) exempts vital road repair and maintenance projects on the existing right of way from the needless delays associated with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review while still protecting the environment.

  • SB 12, Sen. Sharon Runner (R-Antelope Valley) brings more accountability and transparency to the process by making California Transportation Commission independent and giving it the power to approve individual repair and maintenance projects to make sure Caltrans is actually putting its resources into the top priority projects and achieving its efficiency goals.

  • SB 13, Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) will create a Transportation Inspector General to examine Caltrans and the  High-Speed Rail Authority for fraud and waste, efficiency opportunities, best practices, and opportunities to improve data used to project resource allocations. The Transportation Inspector General would be responsible for investigating and reporting back to the Legislature any instances of fraud, waste and abuse, giving the Legislature the tools it needs to hold Caltrans accountable and ensure that every transportation dollar is spent efficiently and appropriately.

  • SB 14, Sen. Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) would eliminate the sunset provision in legislation passed in 2009 that allowed regional transportation agencies and Caltrans to enter into an unlimited number of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and eliminated the number and type of projects that may be undertaken.

Sen. Cannella serves as Vice Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Development Committee for the extraordinary session on infrastructure released this statement.

“Now is the time to make a permanent transformation of how we maintain our transportation infrastructure and deliver projects that bring more bang for our investment,” Sen. Canella said of the proposals introduced today.  “These are not some vague promises of efficiency, but are concrete proposals that best use our existing revenues.”

In addition to the reform package introduced today, Senate Republicans have previously introduced the following bills to provide funding for transportation infrastructure:

SCA X1 1 (Huff) Will constitutionally guarantee that the billions in transportation taxes paid by California drivers annually are only used for transportation purposes.  

SB X1 2 (Huff) Dedicates cap and trade taxes paid from putting gasoline production under the cap to improving California’s streets and roads.  SB X1 2 would specify how approximately $1.9 billion in revenues collected from Cap and Trade auction funds from the recently imposed tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, would be spent.

SB X 1 3 (Vidak) Allow Californians to vote on whether they want to continue funding the HSR project, which is estimated to cost $100 billion to complete, and would immediately freeze any further spending on the project until after a vote on June 7, 2016.  If approved by voters, any unspent High Speed Rail (HSR) dollars would be redirected to repair and/or construct new state highways and local streets and roads.

SB X 1 6 (Runner) Prohibits the use of Cap and trade taxes on HSR and redirects the funding to other street and road projects. 

For press inquiries or questions, please contact Jacqui Nguyen, press secretary for the Senate Republican Caucus at (916) 651-4029.