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California Republicans: Gov. Brown 'diverting' gas tax money

FILE -- People fill up Thursday, March 30, 2017, at a Bakersfield, Calif., gas station. (KBAK/KBFX photo)
FILE -- People fill up Thursday, March 30, 2017, at a Bakersfield, Calif., gas station. (KBAK/KBFX photo)
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Gov. Jerry Brown's new gas tax increase continues to face opposition.

On Tuesday, Republicans at the Capitol said the Democrats are breaking their promise to California taxpayers, and "diverting" the new gas tax money.

The bill passed by state lawmakers in April will reportedly bring in some $52 billion in new funds over the next 10 years. Cities and counties will get millions of that money.

Assemblyman Vince Fong said Brown is breaking his promise that revenue from the 12-cent-a-gallon hike would be constitutionally protected and used only to repair and improve California roads, bridges and highway infrastructure.

"It was promised at that time that all those funds would go towards transportation," Fong said.

He said now that they are going through the budget process, "I'm seeing more and more, close to 30 percent of those hard earned gas dollars being diverted to no transportation items, and it's not right."

Fong claims that "Sacramento has broken its promise."

In the spending plan approved by the Senate Budget Committee, about $1 billion of gas tax dollars are going towards things like public transportation, parks, bike paths, and University of California research projects.

These are items that that Republican lawmakers believe have nothing to do with the promise made by the governor.

The California Department of Transportation responded for the governors office. Mark Dinger, spokesperson for Caltrans, said they are not "diverting" the money.

"Monies are not being diverted in the May revise by Gov. Brown, they're simply implementing the funding breakdowns provided by the legislation," Dinger said.

Dinger said it is true about 30 percent of the funding will not go directly into the roads you drive on, but he said that was always what SB1 intended to do.

"The funds for SB1 were always for transportation purposes, not just roads," he said.

Dinger said some examples of these non-road related projects are that $635 million were set aside for transit rail projects, $7 million for transportation research for the UC systems, and $5 million was just allocated out of SB1 for workforce development grants.

"Keep in mind that some of those other programs are helping us ramp up to get all this work done by developing the work force and doing the planning necessary to achieve all these projects that are going to equal a better transportation system," Dinger said.

He said, "Some of the things that they are citing is $71.5 million goes towards park and recreation, that represents gas tax revenue from fueling of boats and fueling of tractors and off highway vehicles which don't use the roads at all, and SB1 continues the existing direction of that revenue back to these programs which benefit those users."

Dinger said the majority of the money is going to fix roads, and they need it to.

"We're excited at Caltrans too because it gives us a chance to catch-up on this huge backlog of major maintenance projects that we've been having to put off because the old gas tax simply wasn't keeping up, it hasn't been raised in more than 20 years," he said.

Dinger noted that Year 5 of the plan is when "you will really start to see the benefits of SB1."

Dinger said all of the money is going towards transportation related issues and they will be following the bill that was passed.

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Assemblyman Fong disagrees and said he will continue to raise attention to this and "try to stop as much of it as possible."

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