Many California roads have not been maintained in decades

Could California transportation bill pave farm exodus?

Billions of dollars in new taxes could hit California farmers particularly hard if the state legislature gets its way.

The Fresno-based Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) reports that the governor and legislature are getting ready to promote a $7.4 billion transportation bill said to address deferred maintenance from local roads to state highways.

WAPA President Roger Isom says the measure has been on the legislature’s wish-list, but the politics of things in Sacramento kept it from becoming reality last year. All that may change post-election if one or both houses see a supermajority of Democrats seated, in which case Isom sees little chance of stopping the measure.

You’ll get no argument that California’s roads are in dire need of repair. In some counties it would be an improvement to remove the asphalt and return county roads to dirt paths. We’ll just wash our cars more with all the water California saved last summer by letting the capital lawn die.

WAPA is reporting the following proposed increases from the transportation bill:

  • 17 cents per gallon in new fuel taxes; (already 38 cents for gas and diesel);
  • 30 cents per gallon in new diesel excise taxes; (already 13 cents);
  • A boost in the sales and use tax on diesel from 1.75 percent to 5.25 percent;
  • $38 in additional vehicle registration fees; and,
  • A new annual fee of $165 on zero-emission vehicles.

Here’s the kicker: all of this gets tied to the Consumer Price Index. In other words, inflation will automatically make it more expensive to live, drive and own businesses in California.

Wait, there’s more.

WAPA says the bill as currently proposed creates the “Independent Office of the Transportation General,” a new government agency to oversee those state agencies that expend transportation funds. This includes such fun agencies as the Department of Motor Vehicles, California Highway Patrol, Department of Transportation and the High-Speed Rail (HSR) Authority.

Will the job of “transportation general” be advertised and what are the minimum requirements for the position? What will it pay?

California already pays some of the highest tax rates in the nation. Given the latest round of laws enacted by Sacramento the California farmer will soon be eligible for inclusion on the endangered species list.

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