LOS ANGELES — Gov. Jerry Brown delivered a sharp defense of his new gas tax May 18 at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, saying efforts to repeal the legislation by a group of Republican leaders was nothing short of a test of America’s ability to maintain a central place on the world stage.
“The test of American strength is whether we defeat this stupid repeal measure which is nothing more than a Republican stunt to get a few of their losers returned to Congress. And we’re not going to let that happen,” Brown said during a Mobility 21 conference attended by several hundred state and local transportation officials.
Senate Bill 1 raised gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon for gasoline and 20 cents per gallon for diesel fuel, along with hiking vehicle registration fees. The new taxes are expected to raise $5.2 billion annually for road and bridge repairs and mass transit projects in the state.
“If we think we’re number one, we ought to at least be able to build up our own country, not to say all the other countries,” Brown said after highlighting the billions of dollars China is investing in transportation infrastructure in its own country and around the world. “If not, where are we? Where is America in the world? So it’s unrealistic to think you can do it on the cheap.”
SB 1 was passed last year mostly along party lines and caused an immediate backlash among some conservative leaders. An effort is being organized to place a repeal measure on the November state ballot.
“The cost of living is already on the increase in California and families are struggling to survive. This is unacceptable,” said repeal organizer and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio in April. “Gov. Jerry Brown and his special interests … need to prepare themselves. We’re coming and we’re taking back our money.”
Brown argued that SB 1 was necessary because federal help on transportation infrastructure was not likely to be coming soon.
“The will isn’t there, the political will. There’s lots of room for investigations, for fights on health care, and flights on Planned Parenthood, fights on Russia and Trump and all the rest of it, but the challenge of just paying for the roads that keep America going, that political will does not exist in Washington,” Brown said. “It exists in California. That’s why we have SB 1, and that’s why we’re going to keep it because we know what it takes to build for the future.”
Mobility 21 is a coalition of public and community leaders from Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties that focuses on promoting transportation projects. The workshop also featured comments from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, CEO Phillip A. Washington of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and other transportation leaders. Garcetti and some others also took part in a news conference after the workshop which Brown did not attend.
“I just have a simple message for folks as they look at the ballot in November,” said Garcetti, who also chairs the board of the MTA. “If you think that the traffic is flowing just fine, go ahead, repeal SB 1. If you think you’re spending too much time with your family and your friends, and that you are able to get to all those sporting events and those concerts and those child recitals, fine, repeal SB 1.”
Aside from the anti-repeal messages delivered by Garcetti and Brown, the workshop was also dedicated to celebrating the recent awarding of $1.2 billion in SB 1 funds to several counties in the Mobility 21 area.