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Nickel-a-Gallon Hike in State's Gas Tax Proposed

January 31, 1985|JERRY GILLAM | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A bill calling for a nickel-a-gallon state gasoline tax increase to raise money for maintenance and construction of California streets and highways was introduced Wednesday by the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The legislation also would boost truck weight fees by 50% to raise a total of $670 million yearly, said Sen. John F. Foran (D-San Francisco).

Three of the 5 cents in the proposed higher tax would go to local streets and roads, and $250 million yearly in state funds would be spent for public transit purposes.

The tax increase and the truck weight fee hike would go into effect Jan. 1, 1987, two months after the next general election.

The delay provides a measure of political insurance for those expecting to run for reelection in 1986, including Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, who opposes the gasoline tax increase.

"We have a growing transportation crisis that will not go away," Foran said. "I hear more complaints about potholes, congestion and inadequate transit than I do about higher gasoline taxes.

"We are short of funds for local streets and roads and public transportation. And we're in danger of losing federal matching funds for state highways because we can't pay our share.

"I think you have to go for a gas tax increase."

A spokesman for Deukmejian said, "The governor is not supportive of a gas tax increase. He thinks there are other options that should be explored first, before proposing to raise taxes."

The state Department of Transportation reportedly is looking into a number of such options, including a sales tax increase for highways like one recently approved in Santa Clara County, which would require a local vote for approval.

The governor's task force on public works improvements recommended a 5-cent state gasoline tax increase last year to help improve and expand California's deteriorating transportation network, but the governor rejected the recommendation.

California motorists pay 18 cents a gallon in gasoline taxes--9 cents to the state and 9 cents to the federal government. The last 2-cent state tax increase was in 1983.

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