|Transportation Conflict Resurfaces For Gov. Jerry Brown|
|Thursday, 12 July 2012 12:37|
By Dan Walters
AB 1458 is a blast from Gov. Jerry Brown’s political past.
The measure by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, would undo a provision of the “governmental reorganization plan” that Brown has submitted to the Legislature.
Brown’s plan, due to go into effect this month, would consolidate a number of state agencies and hitherto independent commissions into a new array of superagencies. He says it would eliminate duplication and inefficient overlaps and give taxpayers more bang for their bucks.
Politically, it’s a component of Brown’s campaign to prove to voters that he is spending their money wisely and thus, he hopes, persuade them to approve multibillion-dollar increases in sales and income taxes in November.
One impact would be to fold the commission into a reconstituted transportation agency and thus make it subject to control by whomever Brown appointed to head the agency. That doesn’t sit well with many stakeholders in the complex world of transportation financing. It would also, in effect, reverse legislation that Brown signed 35 years ago to resolve one of his most intense controversies.
When Brown took office in 1975, one of his first acts was to sharply curtail highway spending and lay off thousands of Department of Transportation (Caltrans) employees.
The conflict intensified when journalists, including yours truly, revealed that Caltrans had been amassing huge amounts of unspent highway funds while Gianturco claimed that a lack of money was holding up construction.
A series of confrontational legislative hearings ensued. Gianturco’s chief legislative critic, late Assemblyman Walter Ingalls, D-Riverside, wrote a 1977 bill to rename the Highway Commission the California Transportation Commission, fold several other transportation boards into it, and give it independent staff and more authority, along with local governments, over transportation spending.