Vince Fong

Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield

Felix Adamo / TBC Media

As a massive transportation bill heads to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for his signature to make it law, a local assemblyman shared his alternative during a Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting.

Joining the meeting Tuesday, April 18, by phone, Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, said Senate Bill 1 may cause Californians to think twice about where their tax money goes because it calls for more taxes on gasoline, diesel and registration fees, plus a new tax on zero-emission vehicles.

His alternative was Assembly Bill 496, which would address road and transportation issues with existing funds. 

The state Board of Equalization says the current state tax is 27 cents a gallon for gas and 16 cents a gallon for diesel.

The California Legislative Information website states SB 1 would raise gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon, and by 20 cents per gallon for diesel. Another tax would be levied on zero-emission vehicles. It would tax owners $100 and possibly rise with inflation. These changes would start in 2020. 

Fong’s bill would have been different. It would fight for existing funds that were already allocated for transportation needs such as building new roads, maintaining them and public transportation without raising taxes. The total funds would equal $7.8 billion.

In addition, $2.2 billion of that $7.8 billion “would immediately repay money that was raided from transportation funds during the recession,” according to a March 22 news release from Fong's office.

Under Fong's plan, the top three expenditures the allotted money would go to are $2.1 billion toward local roads and streets, $1.32 billion for additional lanes on state freeways and $1.7 billion for highway maintenance. 

The revenue from new and used vehicles ($3 billion), return of truck weight fees ($1 billion), vehicle insurance and registration fees ($550 million), to name a few, would go to California roads.

Some are concerned about new taxes.

Tehachapi resident Rich Johnson, who was at the chamber meeting, told Tehachapi News, "A lot of people that are retired such as police officers are moving out of California to Texas, Montana, and Idaho because of taxes. If all conservative people are leaving how is it supporting our state?"

If Senate Bill 1 is signed into law, Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett expects an impact locally.

"I predict people are going to drive less," Garrett said. "We have a more expensive blend of fuel in the summer and it hurts locally. The trucking industry may buy fuel in Arizona, or Nevada. It may hurt local businesses along the freeway."

Fong said he will not give up on the best ways to fund transportation needs, and his message is to focus on building back trust, getting involved and raising accountability.

"We have a long way to go to building trust back, but that’s where transparency and accountability come into place, so the public needs to know what happened," Fong said. "They need to get involved. I believe there are people who are frustrated with Sacramento and frustrated with California and on the verge of giving up but my message to them is this is the time to engage. We are in a tough situation, but we have a lot of opportunities if we all stand together."