Assembly speaker Toni Atkins proposes $52 annual driver fee for California road maintenance

Industrials Associated Press

Most California drivers would pay an extra $52 a year under a proposal to raise $2 billion a year to fix the state's crumbling roads, bridges and highways.

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Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins' proposal released Wednesday didn't spell out how the money would be collected, but she said the fee of about a dollar a week could be charged as part of insurance plans and vehicle registration.

The fees could be higher for trucks and for electric vehicle drivers who don't pay gas taxes.

The San Diego Democrat's plan responds to a call by Gov. Jerry Brown for the Legislature to tackle a $59 billion backlog in infrastructure repairs.

The shortfall is driven in part by declining gasoline tax revenues as more fuel-efficient cars use roads that continue to age and deteriorate.

The state has been looking beyond the gas pump to raise money. One option under review is charging drivers by miles traveled instead of fuel guzzled, but that would take at least five years to implement.

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Atkins told an audience at the California Transportation Foundation's annual summit that lawmakers can't wait that long to reinvest in infrastructure.

A California Department of Transportation review found 16 percent of the state's highway miles were in poor condition in 2013. That's already impacting driver's wallets, Atkins said.

"If you take someone who is working poor or poor and they are driving on deficient roads, they are going to have a higher maintenance bill," she told reporters.

The proposal would need Republican support because a two-thirds vote of the Legislature is required to pass new fees. Amanda Fulkerson, a spokeswoman for the Assembly GOP caucus, said lawmakers can look beyond additional fees to fund road improvements because of higher-than-expected revenues and bloated state transportation bureaucracy.