City Gas Tax Revenue Saved in State Budget Deal: What Does That Mean?

7_28_09_villaraigosa.jpgPhoto: d.sato/flickr

Now that the Governor and legislature have finally reached an agreement on the state budget, city transportation staff can breate a sigh of relief. The deal announced by Mayor Villaraigosa and Council President Garcetti that ended Schwarzenegger’s plan to "borrow" against local gas taxes that were, of course, dedicated towards transportation.

While the Mayor was celebrating his victory on Twitter, Garcetti sent out an email outlining what exactly the deal struck between cities and our state leaders means for local transportation:

The outpouring of support from our community last month made a difference during the Legislature’s tense negotiations. Our letters to state legislators helped protect a critical source of revenue for local municipalities.

As I noted when I last wrote you, for every gallon of gas you put in your car, 3 of the 18 cents that you pay in non-federal gas taxes goes to cities and local governments to help pay to maintain roads and fill potholes. It’s a tax that has always gone to local governments so that we can repair our cities’ streets, and if it had been taken it would have seriously restricted our ability to perform even routine road maintenance for the foreseeable future.

If saving road reconstruction funds exactly get you jumping for joy, a statement from the LADOT to Streetsblog implies that if the state had successfully raided the local gas taxes could have imperiled the city’s ability to paint bike lanes and other street markings:

…our Department uses ‘gas tax’ monies to pay for the speed hump program and for re-striping of streets (after Public Works Dept re-paves.) The bulk of the gas tax funding for street repairs actually goes to Dept Of Public Works, which re-paves roads, fills potholes and reconstructs curbs and sidewalks.

So there you go, anyone looking for a silver lining in the state’s massive budget cuts can at least take solace that they didn’t place us farther behind when trying to get the city to paint bike lanes and other road markings.

Last week, the Times announced the details of a an early budget agreement that including a forced sacrifice for city transportation agencies, "Cities and counties would lose another $1 billion in transportation money." Knowing that the state wasn’t planning on raiding its transit operations subsidy anymore, some fretted that this newest plan would endanger Measure R and other local alternative transportation projects. However, there was never any discussion about raiding local sales tax revenues.

  • Sorry dude. But when it’s between paving sidewalks and repairing potholes or making sure AIDS patients get medication and the disabled have daily care providers put me firmly in the second camp.

    This budget fucking sucks. No one has anything to celebrate about it – big or little. I know this isn’t Japan, so Harry Carry isn’t an option, but at least they should be hanging their heads in shame.

  • Spokker

    Harry Caray is always an option though.

    How did people who lived through the Depression forget their troubles by going to the picture show? Or is that all a bunch of crap? Because nothing can get my mind off the clusterfuck that is California right now.

  • I know this is a alt transit blog and while I totally understand the focus on transportation and how at least the transportation department is “ok,” I’m sort of like this is what you fought for? This is what Democrats can cheer about? Screw the schools, screw the homeless, screw medicare, screw poor people, screw people whose mommy and daddy can’t pay for them to go to college, screw pretty much all of California.

    You know most people who take public transit in LA are going to be truly fucked by this budget.

    There isn’t in my opinion a silver lining to this budget. There isn’t anything positive about this. California has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. We have no more jobs. People are actually going hungry. I know people who that had jobs that are sending random emails in regards to how do they apply for food stamps.


  • Spokker

    Don’t worry browne. The Midnight Ridazz are still going to drink alcohol and ride bikes all night and Los Angeles will be this wonderful utopia. That’s what Streetsblog is all about!

  • DJB

    The state needs to stop picking on local government to balance its budgets. To do that we need to be able to raise taxes and pass budgets without super-majority votes (which requires taking on Prop. 13). Think about it. The legislature is composed of a majority of Democrats who want to avoid most cuts and balance the budget with tax increases, but they can’t raise taxes without politically impossible 2/3s votes. The people sent a contradiction to Sacramento. On the one hand they sent the legislature I just described. On the other, they sent Prop. 13 (in 1978), which requires the super-majority vote.

    As problematic as majority rule can sometimes be, minority rule is even worse (i.e. the minority of Republicans in the legislature are effectively deciding how we balance our budget).

  • So there you go, anyone looking for a silver lining in the state’s massive budget cuts can at least take solace that they didn’t place us farther behind when trying to get the city to paint bike lanes and other road markings.
    Did nobody catch that I was being sarcastic?

    I had a couple of emails asking what was “saved” by Villaraigosa and the City Council’s efforts to lobby the legislature on transpo cuts. While I’m happy that they managed to save some local dollars, it’s certainly not an overwhelming victory.

  • When Enrique Penalosa came to L.A. to give a talk he showed pictures of Bogota, Columbia (where he used to be mayor) – here is a slide of the multiple parks and libraries we built with the money that could have gone to build one massive highway; here is a slide of dirt roads next to the finely paved sidewalks, bike paths, and bus-only roads in the poorest parts of town.

    The U.S. is stuck in a mentality that cars and deeply subsidized car-only roads are the only possible way to create a high standard of living. This is clearly not the case. I see a silver lining in the “starving of the beast” taking place now if, perhaps, reason and sanity can enter the discussion about lowering the capital costs of transportation state-wide.

    Yes, the suburbs will lose. Yes, the car-based consumer culture will lose.

    There are plenty of other, less expensive, means by which we can secure a high quality of life for ourselves.

  • Newton,

    While you were being sarcastic with the tone of this blog it wouldn’t be shocking if you weren’t being sarcastic. And that’s not me being a jerk, this is me telling you the feeling I get when I read this blog.

    I love Streetsblog. I come here everyday. I think the transit community needs lots of voices. This blog in general seems more like on the look at the bright side when it has to do with people’s lives outside of cycling. And that’s not bad, because no one is really looking out for that demographic.

    And seriously, sorry, I truly didn’t get that you were being sarcastic.

    In LA most people like talking about happy stuff. I think even you said you’d like to report happy stuff all of the time if you could (was that sarcasm, because if I said that I would have been being sarcastic) so oops, truly didn’t get the sarcasm.

    Well as you know I took the who is Newton quiz and only got two questions right, so I’ll be looking more closely in your posts for sarcasm and I’m not being sarcastic about that.

    When I talk about sarcasm it sounds like I am being sarcastic, but I swear this is an honest response.


  • Browne, no we’re cool. It is hard to write about sarcasm on a blog because well, it’s hard to get tone. That you and DG both missed it means that I wasn’t clear.

    I do look for positive stories because I don’t want people to come to Streetsblog for their daily downer. That being said, I don’t think I paint an overly rosy picture. I think there’s a lot of good stuff going on out there, most of it DIY and unofficial, and I want to make sure people know it. I sort of think that things are slowly getting better, but it’s not like we’re living in a utopia.

    I would love to write only good stories, but that’s because I’d love the material to do so; not because I’m someone that looks for the silver lining in everything.

  • If you want to blame anyone–here are candidates:

    SEIU, who ran a cynical campaign against the recent budget fix measures because they oppose caps on spending

    the anti-tax zealots for pretending their ideology is viable and clogging debate with mis-statements etc. while being useless about any useful reform of government

    The voters, who have created the dysfunctional structure of governance by endorsing Prop 13, 98 and other robobudget measures plus term limits

    Advocates for transit etc. – we just haven’t done the job to promote our issues at the state level

    Democrats for cutting a crooked deal for status quo district lines aftyer the 2000 census that meant the Republicans were guaranteed just enough votes to thwart any revenue measures etc. Also the legislature has been too generous in labor negotiations, reckless raised pensions to state workers, have been usless about fixing the way the state operates, etc.

    Republicans for being captives of the far right and being willing to repeat b.s. about the consequences of the all cuts budget fix

    The Governor, who blew a multi-billion hole in the budget by eliminating the car tax which he campaigned on doing during the recall without being honest about the consequences

  • The 2/3 budget rule has to go.

    There is the 2/3 vote required to raise taxes which is one thing.

    Then there is a 2/3 vote required about how that money is spent. If a minority party wants to dictate public policy determined through spending priorities, they should have to win a majority at the ballot box.

    Repeal term limits. Repeal Props 13, 98 and all ballot box budgeting. Expand the Assembly to 160 members to reduce district size and the amount of money neeeded to run for election, and bring in publicly financed campaigns to reduce the role of special interest money overall. Give local governments control over their own money.

    NONE of this will happen of course. But since we are dreaming of good governance, I just thought I’d throw in my two cents.

    Of all the changes to make, repealing the 2/3 budget rule is the one most needed.

  • Not Spokker

    You can only wring your hands so much about this stuff. If our political class, and our social structure, can’t change our infrastructure for the better we all lose.

    Not wanting to be taxed is a natural thing for people to desire. Our government is quite well funded, and it performs rather well most of the time. We need to make it run better, and the problem is not necessarily that we don’t have the means, nor that we lack a clear picture of what we ought to be doing.

    We, as a people, have no political means to get where we need to go. Too many people are fighting to kill social welfare programs at the same time they are fighting to preserve police and prions budgets. We’re cutting transit service when people need it most and fighting hard to expand highways. It is politics and group psychology that is stopping us, not bloody Prop 13.

  • ubrayj02

    I, for one, believe that the “prion” budget is woefully underfunded.

    Mad Cow disease, FTW!

  • Spokker

    Haha someone is posting as me but they posted something really good here, so I don’t know what to think.

    The bottom line is that people want services but don’t want to pay for them. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

  • ubrayj02

    The bottom line (as not-you stated above) is that we cannot afford to continue as we have, but that we have more than enough resources to try other systems out (yet we have no political means of doing so).

    Oh, fake Spokker, you’re the best.

  • Spokker

    We are not going to continue to live as we have. Advances will be made both on the transit side and the car side. And all of these advances are going to be slow to come, but they’ll probably happen. I believe in choice and I don’t believe in demonizing someone for choosing to drive or even love driving. I am a car owner but I took the bus today. I will drive again and I will take transit again.

    By the way, ubrayj02, I was schooling some conservative councilman today on livable streets and the futility of widening roadways. So don’t think I’m some car loving jerkoff.


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