Republican legislators in Sacramento seem willing to do anything to avoid voting for a tax increase—even if it means picking taxpayers’ pockets. The GOP push to siphon off more than a billion dollars in Proposition 42 funding—the sales tax on gasoline that is supposed to go for transportation—would do just that.

Traffic congestion is like a ball and chain on our economy. Most commuters spend hundreds of dollars each year paying for wasted fuel they burn up while stuck in traffic. It is estimated that the average California motorist is out of pocket more than $600 a year for excess repairs, wear and tear and poor vehicle performance as a result of our substandard roads and streets. And any time we delay a construction project, the cost skyrockets. The bottom line is that every dollar we don’t invest in fixing our roads and transportation infrastructure costs the taxpaying public a whole lot more.

Republican angst about taxes is understandable. They make good points about the need for long term reform, but the scheme to borrow money from Proposition 42 and local government is just more blue smoke and mirrors. It is ironic that when Proposition 42 was conceived, there was an assumption that the two-thirds vote requirement to suspend payment of the funds into transportation accounts would be a steep hill to climb, because Republicans would resist having transportation funds diverted to other spending programs. Now, the word is that Republican negotiators are the ones insisting that Proposition 42 be on the table, even though the Governor and Senate President pro Tem Don Perata oppose suspension.

As much as the public dislikes the idea of more taxes, it has been demonstrated that they will open up their wallets to pay for real transportation improvements. Local sales tax measures for transportation have passed by a two-thirds margin in counties up and down the state—from San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange to Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Sacramento. If Orange County voters are willing to overwhelmingly support a half cent sales tax for transportation, it says something.

One of the major accomplishments in Sacramento over the past decade was passage of the 2006 infrastructure bond package that included Proposition 1B to provide $20 billion in transportation bonds. It is a justifiable source of pride for Governor Schwarzenegger and legislators of both parties. Cutting off transportation funds in the midst of a terrible economy would undo the progress made in 2006 and set us back even further.

Even the $1.43 billion in Proposition 42 funding for 2008–09 wouldn’t help to stem the State’s red ink, since a constitutional amendment, approved by four out of five California voters in 2008, requires that any money borrowed must be paid back within three years with interest.

If enough Republicans can’t hold their noses and vote for a Budget that includes some revenue enhancements, they need to come up with a better alternative than raiding transportation money. The way to the hearts and minds of California voters isn’t through transportation cutbacks.