In its assessment of California’s budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, the Legislative Analyst says this about state highway spending:

“Proposition 1B, a ballot measure approved by voters in November 2006, authorized the issuance of $20 billion in general obligations bonds for state and local transportation improvements…. The budget appropriates $258 million of Proposition 1B funds for various transportation programs. This appropriation level is significantly lower than the appropriations made in recent years because the majority of funds have already been appropriated.” (Emphasis added.) 

Caltrans reports that as of August 31, the Legislature has appropriated $14.2 billion of the $15.6 billion in Proposition 1B that were given to Caltrans for dispersal. Nearly $1 billion of the funds left are earmarked for transit projects. Of the $14.2 billion lawmakers have determined how Caltrans will spend, $13.4 billion has been spent.

Of the remaining $4.3 billion in the bond, $2 billion went directly to cities and counties for road repair. Another $1 billion went to the Air Resources Board for pollution reduction efforts like subsidies to purchase cleaner-burning deisel trucks.

The Legislative Analyst’s overview doesn’t say that coupled with the exhaustion of Proposition 1B funds, state gas tax collections are declining.

More Californians are driving – as any commuter will attest – but they’re driving less distances and they’re behind the wheel of increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles.

Gas tax revenue is the primary funding source for California street and highway maintenance and construction. Twenty counties, however, have boosted local sales taxes by one-half cent to pay for local highway and road improvements.

There’s been no increase in the gas tax in 20 years. And the federal Highway Trust Fund, which supplies California and other states with transportation dollars, has been broke since 2008.

An even-numbered election year like 2014 is unlikely to be the time elected officials decide how best to extract more money from their constituents — even if for needed transportation improvements.

Perhaps the Legislative Analyst might begin a 2015 discussion of the problem with a 2014 publication on the state of the state’s transportation funding.

A possible title:

Now What?

Cross posted at California’s Capitol.