Joint Council 7 TEAMSTER

Volume 62, Number 2
May / June / July 2017

With Washington in gridlock, California leads the way

Watching the Trump administration move toward its 100th day in office is like anticipating a slow moving hurricane. Early gusts are starting to cause grief, but the tempest hasn’t yet reached its peak. Fortunately, there will be sunny skies in California.

As for those gusts, President Trump pushed the Senate to invoke the nuclear option and install archconservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. This will likely mean that anti-union decisions that had been stalled when Judge Scalia died in 2016 will now go forward.

A key promise that the President campaigned on was the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, but Congress quickly found that its plan to throw 20 million people off health insurance while giving a huge tax break to the top 1% would not fly. Trump’s tax reform plan, which was supposed to be the second of a one-two punch with Obamacare, has now been delayed until at least the fall. And, that “big beautiful wall” that the President dreamed of only has funding for its first few miles.

But speaking of building....while the President has mused about a trillion dollar plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, to date, neither he, nor the congress, has come up with legislation to make that a reality.

The California plan

On the other hand, in California, on April 6, the legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a landmark transportation investment to fix state and local roads, freeways and bridges and put more dollars toward transit and safety. SB 1, the Road Repair and Accountabi l i ty Act of 2017, became law in April. Raising $52.4 billion over the next 10 years, the law will go far toward fixing California’s roads, adding capacity to the transportation system, improving local transit systems, and helping move goods to market.

“California has a massive backlog of broken infrastructure that has been neglected far too long,” said Governor Brown. “Fixing the roads will not get cheaper by waiting - or ignoring the problem. This is a smart plan that will improve the quality of life in California.”

Photo of workers demonstrating in support of SB1

Costs and benefits

The $5 billion-a-year program will be funded primarily through an increase in the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993, and a new transportation improvement fee, which, for the majority of Californians, will cost $25 per year. The cost for the average person will be about $10 per month.

On average, Californians spend $762 a year on vehicle repairs related to damage caused by the roads. By improving and repairing the roads, this cost should be significantly lessened.

In addition to state highway and bridge repairs, the proposal would spend $7.5 billion over the next decade on local public transportation projects and another $1 billion on infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.

In an effort to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent properly and contain strong accountability measures, the agreement includes oversight from an inspector general and includes a provision that the money is spent on transportation and not diverted to other state priorities.

“Nobody likes to pay more taxes, and with this bill, the cost of gasoline is scheduled to increase,” says Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise. “But for many of our members whose workplace is California’s roads and freeways, this bill will vastly improve their working lives. And it will bring huge numbers of construction and ancillary jobs to the state. Teamsters will definitely benefit from this legislation.”

“We can’t afford to keep kicking the can down the road,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León. “Californians are tired of the constant traffic jams and crumbling roads, and they expect us to find solutions. These critical investments will keep our state moving and economy growing.”

“We had a choice before us,” added Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “We could have chosen to do nothing, and see more deterioration, more time lost in traffic, and more damage to cars, or we could choose to advance this solution that fixes California’s broken transportation system in a way where drivers will actually end up paying less for a better quality of life.”

On other issues, the state legislature is seeking to ensure that the laws passed in California are not overridden by changes in the federal level. Xavier Becerra, the state’s new Attorney General, is working to ensure that the Trump administration does not withhold funds from California if the legislature moves to designate it a “sanctuary” state. “We will fight anyone who wants to take away dollars that we have earned and are qualified for simply because we are unwilling to violate the Constitution under the President’s defective executive orders,” Becerra told the Los Angeles Times.

The state has meanwhile reaffirmed its commitment to strict greenhouse gas emission regulations, as Trump has moved to roll back those back at the federal level; is finding ways to oppose the building of a border wall; and is looking to protect legal marijuana markets passed by the voters in November.