Described as an anti-congestion charge, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has introduced several amendments to SB 791 so that local transportation agencies can seek voter approval for a "regional transportation congestion reduction charge" on gasoline or diesel. Steinberg is touting the bill as a way to give local governments more power for funding transit projects because local transportation planning agencies would have the means to reduce vehicle congestion with revenue-backed proposals. Notably, under the proposal, these anti-congestion fees could be approved regionally by a majority of voters rather than 2/3. Steinberg posited that the bill reflects the transition of services/functions from the state to local authorities enumerated in the recently approved budget, such as realignment. Steinberg commented the following:
“The state does not have the financial capacity to adequately fund transit and road improvements, and if we can't afford it we ought to at least give the regions of this state the ability to go to the voters and raise money for important priorities like transit and road improvements.”
The Legislature’s current session is about to end so Steinberg has said if the bill cannot clear both houses by then, it could be back in play next year. The California Taxpayers Association is strongly opposed. On the flip side, Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, has spoken in favor of the legislation, arguing that “The transportation improvements that would be made possible by SB 791 would create desperately needed good jobs in California. Every $1 billion invested in transportation creates about 47,500 jobs. SB 791 will put Californians back to work, especially those who have been hit hardest by the recession.”
You can read a letter to Steinberg in support of the bill from various organization leaders, such as the Los Angeles Business Council, California Transit Association, and Mayor Kevin Johnson. See the letter here.