Housing Land Use and Transportation update 6/6/2014
Fate of Transportation Loan Repayment is Still Undecided
Last night, the Budget Conference Committee took up the early repayment of transportation loans, and specifically the $337 million in Highway User tax Account (HUTA) funds. The conferees did not take final action leaving the item open to further debate and negotiation. The Committee is considering the Governor’s proposal to repay only 30% to counties and cities and 70% to the state, the Assembly action to repay 30% to cities and counties plus an additional $110 million in State Highway Account funds, the Senate action to repay 40% to counties and cities and 60% to the state, and finally CSAC’s request that the repayment be done consistent with the fuel tax swap formula which would provide 44% to counties and cities and 56% to the state.
Transportation funding has become increasingly complicated since enactment of the transportation tax swap in 2010. Critical to informing the debate about how to fund transportation infrastructure and the loan repayment is the historical funding formulas and the respective needs of all the components of the multi-modal statewide transportation network. Regarding funding formulas, the state and counties and cities most commonly share state transportation revenue evenly. The exception to this rule is an increment of the base 18-cent gas tax. Beginning in 2002 however, the state and counties and cities shared Prop 42 (sales tax on gasoline) funds evenly. The transportation tax swap, which replaced Prop 42, shares revenue evenly and provides an additional 12% to the state for maintenance programs.
Regarding the needs, the 2012 California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment report found that the pavement condition on the local transportation network is deteriorating at an accelerating rate, and without a reinvestment in the system, 25% of local roads will be in a “failed” condition by 2022. California’s cities and counties are facing an $82 billion funding shortfall over the next 10 years just for maintenance of the existing system. Since nearly every trip, whether by personal vehicle, mass transit, or on foot begins and ends on a local road, this figure is startling.
Counties recognize that the State is suffering from a similar funding shortfall for the maintenance of the state highway system. As such, it’s fair to share repayment of the loans (and any future new transportation revenue) in an equitable fashion that recognizes the importance each system plays for the mobility of Californians. As such, we call on counties to reach out to their delegation to urge the conferees to adopt CSAC’s proposed loan repayment plan which would provide 44% to counties and cities and 56% to the state.
AB 52 (Gatto) – Oppose
As Amended June 2, 2014
AB 52, by Assembly Member Mike Gatto, would provide for a significant expansion of CEQA by, among other things, including potential substantial adverse impacts to tribal cultural resources as a significant effect necessitating full environmental review. Counties appreciate and understand the desire of Native American tribes to be consulted on projects that could impact culturally-significant lands and resources. Indeed, in some cases, counties have instituted processes that extend beyond what is required by law to consult with tribes on proposed projects. Unfortunately, CSAC feels strongly that the legitimate need for consultation between county and tribal governments on a project-by-project basis belongs in the Government Code, where it could expand upon existing General Plan consultation requirements, rather than within the CEQA process.
AB 52 would create significant uncertainty and increased potential for litigation for lead agencies. While the bill lists specific criteria for what constitutes a tribal cultural resource, it also explicitly notes that cultural resources are not limited to those criteria. The bill also prevents the disclosure of the location and nature of a tribal cultural resource to the project proponents. While this requirement is clearly appropriate for specific sites that could be at risk of depredation if their location is revealed, it does not easily lend itself to resources that have broader geographic scope; for instance landscapes considered sacred by a tribe. Lead agencies could be faced with requiring project proponents to make changes to their proposals without being able to clearly delineate the cultural resources that the revisions must protect. In the event of especially costly changes, this would create the potential for litigation between project proponents and lead agencies.
The bill’s current consultation requirements are unworkable, as they require lead agencies to start consultation at four distinct points in the CEQA process: before an agency determines whether a Negative Declaration (ND) or Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required; after an agency decides upon the type of document, but before any public review commences; after an agency decides upon an EIR and starts the scoping period, before the comment period on the Draft EIR; and, again during the public comment period on the ND or EIR. Most troubling is the provision that would allow a tribe to request consultation during the public comment period on the EIR after which the lead agency has already considered the project, mitigation measures, etc. This is too late in the process to be productive and runs counter to the goal of the bill which is to promote early consultation.
CSAC’s fundamental policy goal with regard to county-tribal intergovernmental relations is to promote policies that incentivize cooperation and collaboration. Counties recognize that there is a clear role for government-to-governmental consultation, collaboration and concessions when land use decisions made by county or tribal governments impact tribal cultural resources, or the off-reservation lands outside of tribal jurisdiction. In this instance, rather than complicating the CEQA process by adding a new, broadly defined class of potential significant environmental impacts—a subset of which are already covered by existing CEQA statute—counties feel that project-by-project consultation should be governed by the Government Code. This approach would avoid the many potential pitfalls of grafting this new class of impacts onto an already complex body of law. Moreover, local agencies retain their fundamental police powers, which allow them to require conditions of approval on projects as a means of protecting tribal cultural resources outside of the vagaries of the CEQA process.
AB 52 is set for hearing before the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on June 18.
SJR 24 (DeSaulnier) – Support
As Introduced April 21, 2014
SJR 24, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, would urge the President and the Congress of the United States to stabilize the federal Highway Trust Fund by developing a long-term plan to promote adequate federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues.
Funding for the nation’s surface transportation programs is set to expire this year. Based on current spending and revenue trends, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Congressional Budget Office estimate that the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund will encounter a revenue shortfall before the end of the 2014 fiscal year (FY 2014) – on Sept. 30, 2014. This equates to a $51 billion cut for federal transportation programs in 2015 unless Congress addresses the fiscal cliff facing the Highway Trust Fund.
SJR 24 will place California on record urging federal action to act to address the HTF revenue shortfall as our nation’s leaders consider the reauthorization of MAP-21 before the law expires in September 2014, while continuing to provide the full MAP-21 authorized funding levels for highway and transit programs in fiscal year 2014. California’s counties use federal transportation funds for a variety of critical infrastructure projects, including repairs and rehabilitation of local bridges and other highway safety projects that protect the lives of motorists. Revenue shortfalls have a direct impact on our ability to implement these important projects.
SJR 24 is set for hearing before the Assembly Transportation Committee on June 9.