In 2017, Jerry Brown and the Legislature raised the Gas Tax by $52 billion, promising that this time, the money really would be used to fix roads. Gavin Newsom just broke that promise.
In what might be the most brazen scheme yet to divert transportation dollars, Gov. Newsom plans to raid the State Highway Account even though it’s protected by the State Constitution. This is legal, he insists, because he’ll only lay claim to “interest” on the account, which isn’t “explicitly protected.”
If someone took money from your checking account, would you excuse the theft as long as they only touched the interest? “This would be the first time this interpretation has been used,” said the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst.
The Governor initially plans to divert $131 million. What’s worse is his scheme turns the gas tax into an endowment for the general fund, bearing interest that can be used for any purpose. Inevitably, lawmakers will now hoard gas tax revenue instead of spending it on roads, so the principal will grow larger and yield more interest to spend on anything they want.
No wonder we have the highest gas tax in the country, yet the worst roads. It’s the basic story of California’s decline: the state raises the cost of living, making life more difficult for ordinary people, while neglecting its core functions. Roads and infrastructure, after all, are what government is supposed to do. They’re a foundational public good. California achieves extraordinary things despite our feeble infrastructure, despite resting on a foundation of sand. Imagine what our state could be if it were built on a foundation of stone – starting with political leaders who are truthful with the people they represent.