Proposition 1B makes safety improvements and repairs to state highways, upgrades freeways to reduce congestion, repairs local streets and roads, upgrades highways along major transportation corridors, improves seismic safety of local bridges, expands public transit, helps complete the state's network of car pool lanes, reduces air pollution, and improves anti-terrorism security at shipping ports by providing for a bond issue not to exceed nineteen billion nine hundred twenty-five million dollars ($19,925,000,000).
According to the state Legislative Analyst's Office, California spends about $20 billion per year on various improvements to state transportation infrastructure, including highway and road improvements and passenger rail and public transit upgrades. The funds for these improvements are spent on a "pay as you go" basis. Major sources of funding include an 18-cent per gallon state gasoline excise tax and a state sales tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. Additional sources of funding include roughly $4.5 billion per year in federal gasoline and diesel fuel tax revenues.
Proposition 1B was approved as Senate Bill 1266 in May 2006. The measure authorizes the State to sell $19.9 billion of general obligation bonds to fund transportation projects. The major categories of funding are:
- Congestion Reduction, Highway, and Local Road Improvements ($11.3 billion)
- Public Transportation ($4 billion)
- Goods Movement and Air Quality ($3.2 billion)
- Safety and Security ($1.5 billion)
Major allocations could include:
- $4.5 billion for efforts to reduce congestion on state highways and major access routes.
- $3.6 billion for improvements to public transit and rail systems.
- $2 billion for "improving movement of goods on state highways and rail system, and in ports."
- $2 billion for improving local roads.
- $1 billion for improvements State Route 99, which runs from Sacramento to Bakersfield.
In the Bay Area, money could be allocated to partially completed projects such as carpool lanes on Interstate 580 in eastern Alameda County, on Highway 101 in Marin County, or on the Peninsula; a fourth bore for the Caldecott Tunnel; or rebuilding the Cordelia Junction interchange of Interstates 80 and 680 and Highway 12. However, local transportation agencies could decide to allocate the funds for other transportation needs.
Proposition 1B would represent the largest state expenditure on transportation infrastructure since the governorship of Edmund "Pat" Brown in the 1950s, an era which saw a master plan developed for spending $10.5 billion on expanding the state highway system — the most extensive public works project ever undertaken by a single entity (although fewer than half of the roadways that were originally envisioned by the 1958 plan ended up actually being built). According to data from the Public Policy Institute of California, the state spent $931 per capita on capital outlays in 2002, above the national average of $917, and one-quarter more than the previous high-water mark for capital outlays, in 1967. However, the state's portion of those outlays devoted to highway and road improvements was significantly less than the national average ($156 per capita versus $233 per capita nationally).
Two September public opinion surveys by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Field Poll show that support for Proposition 1B is not much higher than 50%, which is usually an indication that there is not enough support for a measure to comfortably pass.
Arguments For and Against
Proponents claim that the measure will bring critically needed investment to California's transportation network. They respond to objections about the fiscal responsibility of the ballot measure by pointing out that the measure will not raise taxes and will be subject to annual audits and public reports to demonstrate that bond funds are being spent in a manner consistent with the voters' intent.
Opponents argue that Proposition 1B fails to achieve its goals in a fiscally responsible manner. While they agree that improved transportation is critical, they object that bond funding will saddle the state with $32 billion dollars in debt, including interest, and that the funding scheme that the initiative would establish would end the "pay as you go" system without putting anything equally fiscally responsible in its place.
While a number of environmentalists are critical of environmental aspects of the transportation bond, which they claim will lead to more urban sprawl, most activist and special interest groups have not chosen to actively oppose the measure.
Official Voter Information
Voter Information Guide
Includes title and summary, arguments for and against, and text of the initiative.
Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006.
Analysis by California Legislative Analyst, 2006.
Analyzing the Vote for Selected Propositions, Los Angeles Times Exit Poll, Nov. 9, 2006.
Exit poll: Complete poll data, Los Angeles Times Exit Poll, Nov. 9, 2006.
Majorities of Voters Appear Ready to Approve the State's Infrastructure Bonds (Props. 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E). Field Poll, Release 2219, November 4, 2006.
PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Future, Public Policy Institute, October 2006.
PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Future, Public Policy Institute, September 2006.
PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Future, Public Policy Institute, August 2006.
Voters are supporting four of the five bond proposals on the November ballot, although not by overwhelming margins. Field Poll, Release 2206, July 28, 2006.
Continuing negative job appraisals of the Governor and the legislature, despite initial support for infrastructure bonds. Field Poll, Release 2201, June 5, 2006.
Reports and Studies
Propositions 1B, 1C, 1D, and 1E: The Public Works Bond Package. Oct. 2006, California Budget Project
How Is Transportation Funded in California? September 2006, California Budget Project
Financing California's Infrastructure by Michael Semler. Sacramento: CSU Faculty Research Program, December 2005
A Primer: The State's Infrastructure and the Use of Bonds. Sacramento: Legislative Analyst's Office, January 2006