QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Proposition 51 allocates 30% of the state sales tax on motor vehicles (cars and trucks) to transportation improvements.
What is Proposition 51′s main purpose?
The purpose of Proposition 51 is to provide safer, more convenient transportation alternatives in the face of increased traffic congestion in California. Under current local government road-building and transit plans, traffic congestion is projected to get worse by up to 500% around our state over the next 20 years, even after all presently planned new highway projects are built. Proposition 51 invests in fixing roadway congestion bottlenecks and in creating new transportation services that will be less congested, safer, more convenient, and cleaner.
Why do we need to dedicate these funds for transportation purposes?
The costs of building and maintaining our current transportation system has outstripped gasoline tax revenues, and further expansions will be even more expensive. We need to invest a relatively modest new amount (less than 1% of the state budget) in creating a modern, multi-modal system that will get people to where they want to go more quickly. Our quality of life and future economic growth depend on updating and upgrading our transportation infrastructure to give people choices of several convenient ways to reach work, school, family and shopping destinations.
How is Proposition 51 different from existing transportation spending?
Proposition 51 supplements existing transportation plans by placing a new emphasis transportation systems that are less susceptible to gridlock.
Proposition 51 is comprehensive: it includes major intersection upgrades in urban areas, transportation for seniors and disabled people, and programs to reduce air and water pollution created by cars and roads.
Proposition 51 emphasizes safety by eliminating traffic bottlenecks and upgrading school buses that do not meet safety regulations. Funds are also dedicated to making the most dangerous roads in the state safer to drive.
How will Proposition 51 impact the state budget?
Proposition 51 will increase spending on transportation capital and operating by about $810 million per year. That is less than 1% of the current state budget. Funding for Proposition 51 would come only out of general fund growth, so no existing government services will be impacted.
In the event of a recession, the plan could be suspended, and re-allocated to higher priorities.
By reducing air and water pollution, the plan will reduce health care and other costs. A recent study indicates that one dollar expended for air quality improvements results in as much as $15 in health care cost savings.
Will Proposition 51 harm education funding?
Proposition 51 includes language that protects local K-14 schools from any impact. There will be absolutely no impact on “Proposition 98″ education funding. It will continue as if the measure had not been implemented.
Will Proposition 51 affect local government funding?
Proposition 51 dedicates funds only from the state share of the sales tax, without touching the local government share. In fact, most of the new transportation funds provided by this measure will go to local government for transportation purposes.
What assurances are there that Proposition 51 will be carried out properly?
Proposition 51 requires an annual financial audit to prevent fraud and waste and it includes a citizen oversight board to oversee funding decisions.
Also, only two percent of the entire program can be spent on administration.
Proposition 51 does not allow the Legislature to amend the program.
Why don’t we simply raise taxes to pay for Proposition 51, instead of using existing state sales tax revenues?
Almost no one wants new fees or taxes at the state level, even to tackle traffic congestion. Business groups, taxpayers, and the Legislature and Governor oppose new taxes. However, people already pay a significant amount of sales tax whenever we buy a car or truck. This is an existing transportation-related tax. Making sure these funds are spent for new transportation projects is a fair way to meet increasing transportation needs without a tax increase.
Why are the funds allocated by category, instead of letting local governments simply award them to local projects?
The public wants to know what kinds of specific investments will be built. The promise to the public is that this plan will start to create a better, more efficient system, and the different categories of funding are our best guarantee.
Will all regions of the state benefit?
Yes. Proposition 51 generally allocates funds based on population, so that each region will benefit. There is an additional allocation to low population rural areas, since they have such large transportation systems to maintain.
Didn’t the voters approve a transportation funding measure in March of this year?
Yes, the voters approved Proposition 42. That measure simply locked permanently into place existing transportation funding. No new money was provided. Proposition 51 adds more than $800 million a year to solve traffic congestion, highway safety, school bus safety, and other transportation problems that Proposition 42 could not address.