Government Waste Negates Justification for Transportation Tax Hike

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105A personal digression: My father was head of the Iowa Department of Transportation (then called the Iowa Highway Commission) in the late ’60s and early ’70s before he was appointed by President Ford to serve as Deputy Federal Highway Administrator. (Of course, he lost that job when Jimmy Carter became president, but he continued to work in the private sector for a transportation think tank.) When I was in high school, I remember him coming home from an ASHTO conference. That organization, the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, was a pretty well respected group and still is. He was complaining bitterly about what was going on in California. I don’t recall his exact words, but the gist of it was that the new head of California’s transportation agency, called CalTrans, had been taken over by a certifiably crazy person (with no background in transportation policy) by the name of Adriana Gianturco. According to my father, in the 1950s and ’60s, California had the best transportation agency in the entire world. But all that changed with the election of a new, anti-growth, small-is-beautiful governor by the name of Jerry Brown.

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Now, fast forward 40 years. Gov. Brown, version 2.0, proposes a budget that assumes a big increase in transportation taxes and fees. The California Legislature shouldn’t just say no, it should say hell no.

Where to start? First, let’s take judicial notice of the fact that California is already a high tax state with the highest income tax rate and the highest state sales tax in America. But more relevant for the issue at hand, we also have the highest fuel costs in the nation. This is because of both the 4th highest excise tax on fuel and the fact that refineries are burdened with additional costs to comply with California’s environmental regulations.

The high cost to drive in California might be understandable if we were getting value for our tax dollars. But we aren’t. A big problem is that Caltrans is dysfunctional, plain and simple. It has never fully recovered from the days when the agency was effectively destroyed by Gianturco. A report by the California State Auditor just a couple of months ago concluded that a primary responsibility of Caltrans – maintenance of our highways – is not being executed in a manner that is even close to being efficient or competent. Senator John Moorlach, the only CPA currently serving in the California legislature, reacted saying that “This audit reinforces the fact that our bad roads are not a result of a lack of funding. They’re a result of a lack of competence at Caltrans.” Moreover, a report by the Legislative Analyst concluded that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees costing California taxpayers over a half billion dollars a year. All this compels the obvious question: Why, for goodness sake, do we want to give these people even more money?

Another unneeded and costly practice consists of project labor agreements for transportation construction projects. These pro-union policies shut out otherwise competent companies from bidding on projects resulting in California taxpayers shelling out as high as 25% more than they should for building highways and bridges.

Finally, California’s environmental requirements are legendary for their inefficiency while also doing little for the environment. Exhibit A in this foolishness is Gov. Brown’s incomprehensible pursuit of the ill-fated high speed rail project. Not only has the project failed to live up to any of the promises made to voters, it is currently being kept alive only by virtue of the state’s diversion of “cap and trade” funds which are supposed to be expended on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in the Kafkaesque world of California transportation policies, the LAO has concluded that the construction of the HSR project actually produces a net increase in emissions, at least for the foreseeable future.

No one disputes the dire need for improvements in California’s transportation infrastructure. But imposing draconian taxes and higher registration fees that serve only to punish the middle class while wasting billions on projects that don’t help getting Californians get to work or school cannot and should not be tolerated. Legislators who present themselves to voters as fiscally responsible need to understand that a vote for higher transportation taxes will engender a very angry response from their constituents.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piecd was originally published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association


  1. The answer is simple. All you have to do is vote no on all bond or tax issues on the ballot

    • The sad part of John’s answer above is that most voters are INCREDIBLY uninformed and mostly functional illiterate left wing democrats! At least here in this state, and barring revolutions, etc., it will stay that way!! Why? Because all state, county and city governmental offices, including all school boards & PTAs are infested with mush brained liberals who only want PIE IN THE SKY and never pay for or accept any consequences for their apathy and lack of interest in politics. As was said in ancient Rome: “If you don’t pay any attention to politics, politics WILL pay attention to YOU!” As we rapidly swirl around the cesspool drain of history with the oligarchy in Stinkramento!!! Sadly we are seeing this on a daily basis. Watching the state and nation I love so dearly, decline into a violent & chaotic libtard hell hole with nothing I can do to stop it, is not a pleasent sight!

  2. retiredxlr8r says

    It is true. Just this weekend a trip down the 99 proved that our roads are third class. You spend a good amount of your driving time dodging potholes and poorly fixed potholes!
    California is a good example of living off of what their grandfathers built for them and ignoring the potential cost down the road to fix their neglect.
    California, State of, needs a good Grand Jury, with authority, investigation into their operations seeking out the most efficient organization. Eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse sweeping clean through the whole government.
    A Jury of Citizens with authority to investigate and order!

    • Have worked there at CALTRANS, I have many first hand experiences. But my biggest observations have come since retire. Having driven up and down the State in my motorhome, I have come to the conclusion, management does not care about their product. There product is the road system. They need to drive these road often and with a state of mind, “this is my product, I can do better”. They just do not care. When was the last time the Director or Deputy Directors drove up and down Rte 5 or 99? Another major management problem stems from hierarchy building. The manager with the most employees gets the most dollars. Programs are forever expanding, building that organization chart bigger and bigger. Finally, most all project get re-engineered from the bottom up with the lack of previous experience of what worked and what didn’t work. They shoot for standardization, but someone on that design team that has a better idea, burying any attempt of a cookie cutter design.

      • Oblamo binLyen says

        The fools in SackofTomatoes most certainly don’t drive, if they did they’d get the problem fixed ASAP after driving on the roads in SackofTomatoes.

  3. The answer is simple. The I.Q. of the average Democrat is around 70. They just do not understand ANYTHING.

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