By Tim Hunt
Senate leader ensures gas prices will climb come JanuaryUploaded: Sep 16, 2014
Legislative sessions routinely produce winners and losers.
The environmental community focused on fossil fuels and the bogeyman of climate change has been celebrating since the Legislature adjourned at the end of August.
Not so for the people who drive gasoline-powered cars in this state.
Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Bakersfield) guided AB 69 through the Assembly that would delay until 2018 the requirement that gasoline companies comply with the cap-and-trade rules that the state air board has established to comply with the awful global warming act that the Legislature passed in Gov. Schwarzenegger's term. The air board, as we have seen in the Bay Area, establishes its regulations without any consideration of the economic impact.
For the cap-and-trade gasoline requirement, every agency that has looked at it places the impact at 20 cents per gallon to 50 cents to as much as more than 70 cents. That's an awful hit on anyone driving a gasoline-powered car, let alone poorer people represented by Perea and other Democrats.
Despite the impact, termed-out Senate leader Darrell Steinberg employed his power to never allow the bill to emerge from the Senate rules committee (which he chairs) and then to squash an attempt on the floor to gut-and-amend another bill to insert these provisions. Gut-and-amenda procedure to totally rewrite a bill on the flooris apparently reserved only for bills that the leadership supports and wants to avoid the normal committee hearings and input from various stakeholder groups. Gas prices will go up Jan. 1 when the regulation takes effect.
Remember, it is Steinberg who cut the deal with Gov. Jerry Brown to put $250 million in the current budget for the governor's pet bullet train project and then commit 25 percent of future cap-and-trade revenues to the train. That cash guarantee may be enough to give life to what should be a dead project.
Meanwhile, back to the Legislatureit passed a bill to direct some cap-and-trade funds into putting an additional one million electric cars on the roads in the next 10 years. The bill includes rebates of up to $2,500 for low- and moderate-income residents to encourage them to buy a hybrid or electric car. It will use about 20 percent of the revenues from cap-and-trade this year.
This bill was celebrated by the environmental groups and sets a goal of increasing electric cars by 10 times. For wealthy folks, driving a Tesla and paying nothing to use the roads plus getting $10,000 in tax incentives, it's pretty much a no-brainer unless you want to drive to Tahoe when it gets dicey.
With electric vehicles continuing to increase and the state's freeways and other roadways continuing to deteriorate, the Legislature must deal with a fundamental change in how road maintenance is funded. A report last week the Road Information Program said that bad roads and congestion cost Bay Area drivers $2,200 per year. If you have driven I-680 between Castlewood Drive and Mission Boulevard recently, the right lanes are so broken-up and pot-holed that you readily understand the issue.
The survey found that 49 percentnearly halfof the roads are in poor condition and another 30 percent are mediocreboth categories that are failing grades.
It is estimated that the state will need $2.8 billion per year to maintain the current awful condition of the roads and only $685 million is available. Given a state budget that exceeds $100 billion, that's a reflection of the Democrat-dominated Legislature's screwy priorities that it is investing in fighting greenhouse gases and letting infrastructure fall apart.
Will Kempton, former CalTrans director, was quoted in the Bay Area News Group accurately summing it up, "Our transportation infrastructure is simply worn out."