by Lou Binninger
Last week’s vote by the legislature to raise $5.2 billion in new taxes annually on fuel and vehicles was portrayed as an infrastructure improvement bill. That’s a lie, but what’s new?
Gov. Brown, union thugs and environmental groups pulled-off another assault on taxpayers to bail-out the government employee pension fund. Employees can earn up to 90% of their highest earnings year when retired. The pension system earns nearly nothing on investments and is riddled with incompetence and corruption.
The fund currently needs $11 billion annually to sustain this lavish commitment to retirees. The new “road” taxes will backfill the pilfering of other government monies for pension promises.
Gov. Brown gave nearly $1 billion in pet projects to fence-sitters for leaning his way on the taxes. He needed at least one Republican to vote for the bill to get the needed 2/3s majority.
Being Brown’s whore got Sen. Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) $400 million in pork for the extension of the Altamont Corridor Express, a commuter rail line between the Bay Area and the Central Valley. Canella sold himself, ripping off state taxpayers, for his future ambitions.
There is nothing in SB 1 to guarantee the $52.4 billion over 10 years will actually go to roads. Gas taxes go up 12 cents a gallon, diesel 20 cents a gallon, electric car owners will pay an annual fee of $100, and registering any vehicle spikes from $38 – $175.
According to Jon Fleischman “30% of the new tax revenues will go to projects other than roads (including parks, workforce apprenticeships, rural bike lanes, boats, trains and local planning grants).” Incredibly, the plan mandates that less than 5% of funds can go to traffic relief or lane expansion. This is insanity.
Brown and environmental nerds think millions of commuters idling for hours-a-day on LA and San Diego freeways is ecologically healthier than getting people to their destination quicker and safer. No freeway system in America compares to LA gridlock.
It isn’t just about a shortage of money. The Reason Foundation found that California spends more money than most states to get the poorest roads:
California spends 4.7 times more per mile of state-controlled highway than the national average. For every $1 Texas spends, California spends $5.80. For $1 Michigan spends, California spends $3. And for all the extra expense California ranks 47th for highway conditions, while Michigan ranks 30th and Texas 11th.
So while costing a lot less per mile, those states are able to have much better roads. In fact, over the last 20 years of liberal leadership, California’s highway system and road conditions made the least amount of improvement among all 50 states. How so?
The state is the poster boy for waste, bad leadership and corruption. And, Caltrans gets the trophy for the most wasteful among state agencies. Spending much more for much less translates to incompetence from the top down. Caltrans sports 20,000 employees (5,000 at headquarters) with $11 billion to spend.
Sixty-two percent of Caltrans jobs exceed budget. One Caltrans employee golfed for 55 days on the clock, even bragging to co-workers about it. Who hasn’t noticed packs of Caltrans workers sauntering around Marysville taking a break from their B Street Palace?
Caltrans crews are a byword for waste and shovel-leaners when work-jokes are told in the private sector. “Heh, this looks like a Caltrans operation!”
In 2014, state analysts noted that Caltrans could lay-off 3,500 employees, save $500 million and not miss a beat. But reforms are blocked by unions who favor white collar welfare.
Caltrans has weak controls over spending, in some cases no controls. Auditors reported that no supporting documentation is produced on work order costs when completing field maintenance.
According to the State Auditor, Caltrans lied to legislators for seven years about implementing recommendations from a $250,000 study conducted to help the agency make field maintenance operations more efficient. While legislators believed Caltrans was following these guidelines, it wasn’t. Who cares that taxpayers’ money was wasted on the study.
The road to incompetence is paved by Caltrans and its spineless legislators. And, it takes a lot of your money to keep them going.