Guest View: Alejo’s solution to fix state roads

30th District Assemmbly Member Luis Alejo speaks in 2014 during the South Valley Legislative Summit at the Hilton Garden Inn.

If you drove your car today, or took a bus to get around, this is something you likely experienced—a pothole!
During the Great Recession, the legislature had to make tough choices to balance the state’s budget. One of those choices was shifting over $1 billion in annual truck weight fees from the State Highway Account to the General Fund. This means for the past five years, money specifically collected to repair local roads and fund transportation projects has been collected, but not spent on our roads. Instead, this money has continuously been used to support the General Fund and pay bond service debt. As a result, our roads have suffered and the backlog in transportation maintenance and repairs has ballooned to nearly $59 billion.
At the time, rerouting transportation funds was seen as a needed, temporary fix to help other essential services. But times have changed, our economy is on the rise, more individuals are working, and thanks to my AB 60, there are over 281,000 new drivers on our roads. Our economy has improved, but state policy has failed to keep up.
In February, I introduced Assembly Bill 227 to redirect the truck weight fees back to the State Highway Account, equaling a nearly $1 billion investment in our roads annually. The bill also addresses the state’s estimated $575 million in outstanding debt that was borrowed from various transportation accounts during the economic downturn. To fully achieve the goal of AB 227, the state must repay these loans before Dec. 31, 2018. This will be a significant increase to numerous transportation accounts, including the Highway Users Tax Account, the Transportation Investment Fund and the Traffic Congestion Relief Fund. In short, the bill simply returns funds back to their intended purpose without imposing another fee or charge on Californians.
Not only will returning these funds to their intended purpose improve our roads, it also ensures we have a reliable system to keep people and goods moving in California and into the global market.
The California Transportation Commission further identifies this need in their 2014 report to the legislature. They stated, “…the diversion of truck weight fee revenue represents a net decrease in funds available for transportation.” To solve this deficit, “The Commission recommends that the diversion of truck weight fees from the State Highway Account to the General Fund should cease immediately.”
It doesn’t take a Democrat or Republican to fix a pothole, and I am glad this common-sense effort has bipartisan support. Just last week, during a hearing before the Assembly Budget Subcommittee, my colleague from Fresno, Assemblymember Jim Patterson, stated: “This money was taken and needs to be returned… it is a direct return of those weight fees to the purpose for which they were paid into.” And I completely agree. Our roads and highways need rescuing and we need to stop kicking this can down the road.
During my first two years serving in the legislature, and as a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, we had to make tough budget choices and shift funds to support the General Fund. Shifting transportation funds was always intended to be temporary, and with the state budget in surplus this year, now is the right time to shift this money back for its original and intended purpose.
Earlier this year, Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins outlined her transportation goals for this year, and this bill falls directly in line with those objectives.
Assembly Bill 227 provides multiple benefits to our state, because when we invest in our roadways, we also create thousands of jobs by putting Californians back to work. Our economy is improving and if we are going to continue to have a robust and recovering economy, we have to reinvest money in our roads and highways.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo represents the 30th District, which includes San Benito County.

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