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Economist Questions California's Highway Funding Viability

This undated photo shows the Interstate 5 freeway.
Bill Morrow
This undated photo shows the Interstate 5 freeway.

California's gas and diesel taxes are going up sharply in November now that the governor has signed Senate Bill One. The measure increases fuel taxes to pay for highway repairs, but some call the idea a stop-gap measure.

The nonpartisan group Next10 commissioned Beacon Economics to review how the state pays for road repairs. The study found roads are being used more, even as drivers are buying less fuel.

That means the current funding model might need to be changed.


"At the moment we have no real alternative to fuel taxes. The infrastructure is there, how we collect them. It's very inexpensive to administer that. But the real conversation is going to be moving toward a new way to fund our road and our infrastructure repair background," said Adam Fowler of Beacon Economics.

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State lawmakers may have to consider changing the way they pay for highway repairs. That may involve a tax on miles driven instead of fuel purchased.

Fowler did praise SB One's focus on catching up on overdue repairs.

"At a time when you have backlogs it doesn't make a lot of fiscal sense to embark on a project that you're not going to be then able to maintain in a meaningful way. So one of the good things is that there's a high priority placed on trying to bring a big chunk of that backlog up to date," Fowler said.


Fowler called the new state funding plan a stop-gap measure that is well intentioned.