A former Caltrans director and a member of the state's transportation panel have filed a proposed November 2014 ballot measure that would generate an estimated $3 billion a year for road improvements by more than doubling vehicle license fees.
The "California Road Repairs Act of 2014" would phase in a 1 percent surcharge to the fee, the equivalent of property tax on a home. The fee has been .65 percent of a vehicle's market value since the late 1990s, with a temporary increase to 1.15 percent from May 2009 through June 2011.
In language filed with the Attorney General's Office late Monday, proponents Will Kempton, the executive director of Transportation California who was Caltrans director from 2004 to 2009, and Jim Earp, executive director of the labor-management California Alliance for Jobs and a member of the California Transportation Commission, said "California is facing a transportation funding crisis."
The proposed constitutional amendment, they wrote, would "provide essential funding for critical road repairs, maintenance, and expansion across the state."
The proposal would be the first highway-funding ballot measure since Prop. 1B in 2006. That measure, backed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and placed on the ballot by the Legislature, authorized about $20 billion bonds for road projects.
Prop. 1B relied on borrowing backed by general-fund revenues, with a 30-year payoff. The road repairs act, though, would have a more direct impact on motorists' wallets and involves the politically perilous vehicle license fee.
The fee had long been 2 percent of a vehicle's value before lawmakers began reducing it in 1998.
After state revenue collapsed a few years later, then-Gov. Gray Davis raised the fee to the full amount in 2003. Motorists reacted angrily and Schwarzenegger campaigned against the increase during the summer recall fight, restoring the lower amount within hours of taking office Nov. 17, 2003.
In 2009, lawmakers approved a temporary 0.5 percent increase in the VLF, raising about $1.6 billion annually to help close a budget shortfall. The 0.5 percent surcharge expired in July 2011.
The road repairs act calls for phasing in a road repairs fee of 1 percent of a vehicle's market value over four years, with the fee taking full effect by Jan. 1, 2018.
Monday's filing seeks a title and summary. Once cleared for signature gathering, proponents would have up to 150 days to collect 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
PHOTO: Will Kempton, the then-director of the California Department of Transportation, testifies during a meeting of the Assembly Transportation Committee on Feb. 28, 2005. The Sacramento Bee/John Decker