By Tim Hunt
Legislature ducks on the two important issuesUploaded: Oct 4, 2016
Last Friday was the final day for Gov. Brown to act on bills passed by the Legislature. Notably missing were any actions to deal with the state’s very real two problems (climate change is not one of them): housing and transportation.
The governor has proposed some modest changes in housing to expedite approvals in areas near transit with suitable zoning. The challenge is that local control is prized in California, but the state’s tax law invites communities to grab all of the jobs and major retailers they can without worrying about providing housing for any of the employees.
The legislature has countered that with the regional housing goals, but those generally have not been met and prices have soared with job growth outpacing new housing units by a huge amount.
That leads into crisis No. 2—transportation. The state’s piggybank for transportation has dropped along with the price of gasoline and earlier this year the state transportation commission significantly cut capital outlays. Throw in how poorly the roads are maintained—think I-680 south of Bernal to Sunol—and we have a daily problem for commuters.
Mix in long-distance commuters chased further east by housing prices and you have the challenge the state faces today.
This week, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released its list of most congested freeways. Amazingly, southbound I-680 in the morning was not on it (westbound I-580 over the Altamont Pass was on it as was northbound I-680 through the San Ramon Valley in the afternoon).
The Republicans in the Assembly released a package months ago to address the issue without additional taxes or fees, while the governor push a plan that included a modest registration fee increase for electric cars (that’s way overdue) as well as increasing the gasoline tax.
It needed a two-thirds vote so it went nowhere.
So while the governor and Democratic legislative leaders celebrate their climate change legislation, they should be ashamed for failing to deal with the two issues that touch most voters daily.
It was refreshing to read the Associated Press report on California lawmakers and how much daily per diem they collect when the Legislature is in session. The daily rate to cover living expenses away from home is $176.
One assemblyman took 24 sick days and collected the per diem for each.
However, I must say I salute our Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, who does not collect the per diem. When she doesn’t return home to Dublin, she said “she crashes on her parents’ couch in West Sacramento.”