Transportation officials considering raising gas tax

November 11, 2011 6:52:29 PM PST
There is a new move to boost the taxes you pay every time you fill up. A new state report shows California is hundreds of billions of dollars short when it comes to fixing its roads. It is a funding gap that could delay more than 3,000 safety improvements.

Whether it is road conditions or endless traffic jams, motorists know it is tough to drive in California. A new, preliminary report by the California Transportation Commission reveals it will take more than $500 billion through 2020 to maintain crumbling roads, outdated freeways and public transit. The problem is the state will barely have half the money.

"We're looking at close to $300 billion that we don't know where it's going to come from, to address those needs," says California Transportation Commissioner Jim Earp.

Transportation leaders say it is time to look at raising the gas tax, which is currently 18 cents a gallon for the state and another 18 for the feds. It has not gone up since 1994. At the very least, some experts say it should increase with inflation.

"So, when you look at not having raised the gas tax and when you look at the fact that the cost of building has more than doubled since then, the relative value of that gas tax has really, really declined," Earp says.

But, with high gas prices and tough economic times still gripping consumers, most voters and politicians are reluctant to approve tax hikes.

"I think what we're always hesitant about is that is it really being levied to fix that problem or is it a grabbing the money for something else?" asks driver Courtney Nowling.

Antonio Torre says, "I think they ought to look for other means or ways. Gas is already overtaxed."

Without some sort of funding increase, though, some fear the once-envied transportation system in California could collapse.

"Our infrastructure is why we are the state that we are, why we have the economy we do. Without it, we're just like another third-world nation," Earp says.

But there might be some signs that sentiments are changing. In Tuesday's elections, about 80 percent of local majority vote tax measures, unrelated to schools, passed throughout the state.

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