California Congressional Republicans have gotten themselves into a bit of a pickle. They’ve invested huge amounts of time, money and political capital into an effort to repeal SB 1, the so-called ‘gas tax’ which will allow California to finally fix our roads. Our economy is dependent on our transportation infrastructure, and updating these taxes and fees for the first time in decades seems like a no-brainer.
Proponents of investing our local revenue into roads found an unexpected ally in President Donald Trump, who decried the nation’s crumbling infrastructure during the State of the Union. Recalling “America’s building heritage,” Trump called on Congress to pass an infrastructure bill that would generate $1.5 trillion to rebuild roads, bridges and highways.
But by pushing for a ballot measure to repeal SB 1, California Republicans will undermine the ability to leverage these funds, even while supporting the president’s national infrastructure proposal that would reward California for having SB 1.
Although details were few, the premise outlined in the State of the Union seemed promising. Trump proposed that the federal government dedicate $200 billion over 10 years, while state and local governments partner with the private sector to provide the rest.
Here in the Valley, we are uniquely prepared to meet the White House’s call for local matching funds to repair and rebuild our roads and railways.
In addition to the revenue fast-tracking road repairs from SB 1, the Valley also was instrumental in passing Measure M in 2016. This half-cent sales tax will devote millions of dollars to improving the Orange Line, building the East San Fernando Valley line and reducing congestion in the Sepulveda Pass.
So, why aren’t we celebrating? Because even now that the Trump Administration’s plan can help us move forward, we’re still managing to get undercut by partisan game-playing.
The Valley could leverage millions of state infrastructure dollars to attract matching grants under the president’s plan. But by pushing for a repeal of SB 1, Congressional Republicans will block California from taking full advantage of federal matching grants.
Does this make sense to you? It sure doesn’t make sense to me. And it will mean real harm to Valley residents hoping to ride a rail system through the Sepulveda Pass from the Valley to LAX in time for the 2028 Olympics.
In fact, at least 28 Metro projects have been highlighted for completion by the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Some may be accelerated through innovative public-private partnerships, and they could be completed even sooner if we’re able to leverage federal dollars.
Congressional Republicans in California need to remember the constituents that they serve, just as Congressional Democrats need to work with the White House when the president proposes solutions which could benefit California. Rather than playing partisan politics, California Congressional members need to work with each other, the Administration, and state and local governments for sensible solutions.
Infrastructure is something we can all get behind, even if we quibble on the details. In return, the Valley business community should support the Administration’s proposals when they dovetail with our local priorities and investments.
The San Fernando Valley is ready to get out of traffic and keep our citizens moving. If the White House can support that, then Congressional Representatives from California should support the White House’s proposal.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.