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Richard Rider

CA has the highest gas taxes in nation — and the SECOND worst roads

1 July, 2019.  Congratulations, Californians.  As of this date, with our latest 5.6 cent/gal gas tax increase, you folks (well, WE folks) now officially pay the highest gasoline and diesel taxes in the nation.  Pennsylvania, you’re relegated back to #2.

So why do we have some of the crappiest roads in the nation?  Read on.

First, a clarification:  Prior too this latest CA gas tax increase, California ALREADY had the highest taxes on gasoline, but our CA “cap and trade” tax is not listed with the other fossil fuel taxes in such comparisons. The California Legislative Analysts Office estimates the cap and trade tax on gas is about 12 cents a gallon.

Now, about those roads.  Below is a URL to a graphic showing that when it comes to the percent of “roads in poor condition,” California is worse than all but four states.  And what’s interesting about the four states that are worse than CA is that all of them suffer from extreme cold temperatures and heavy snows, which are very hard on roads. What’s California’s excuse?

NOTE:  I’ve had to update this article. My original figures had California listed as having the 5th worst roads.  Apparently this updated graphic FROM THE SAME SOURCE considers California roads to be the SECOND worst in the nation.  Only Rhode Island is deemed to be worse.  45% of California’s roads are listed as “poor.” The national average is 20%.

Moreover, eight of the ten worst states are owned and operated by the Democratic Party.  Nine of the ten best states are controlled by Republicans.  Coincidence?


There are several contributing factors to California’s terrible roads. ALL the factors are the result of liberal government policies.

1.  MOST of the gas tax money is NOT spent on roads.  It’s spent on all kinds of projects — including (but not limited to) little-used bike lanes (which increase congestion), hiking trails, beautification projects, beach sand replenishment(!) and — MOST important — incredibly inefficient, expensive rail transportation.

2.  From time to time Sacramento has simply transferred gas tax revenue to the state’s general fund, where the money is spent largely to cover runaway government labor costs.

3.  CA transportation projects are mandated to use overpriced, work-slowing labor union firms only.  We get a lot less bang for the buck, thanks to this labor boss payoff.

4.  CA allows — actually ENCOURAGES — project-delaying “environmental” lawsuits.  This can slow or stop work for years, jacking up the cost of road projects.

The irony is that California should have LOWER road costs than other states.  Economists call this “the economy of scale.”  In sparsely populated Wyoming, building a two-lane road for 10,000 people should cost each driver (via gas taxes) more than in CA, where a six lane road is used by 200,000 people.  But, thanks to our CA politicians, we get no benefit from this economy of scale.  Indeed, congesting the road traffic is viewed as good policy by too many bureaucrats and politicians in the government transportation agencies.

Coincidentally, today the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE ran this detailed front page article detailing the declining use of public transit in the San Diego region.  This decline occurred while the region continued to grow and billions were spent on additional public transit (primarily light rail).  I’ll be writing more about this shortly.

I wrote about a similar article in the LA TIMES written in 2015.  There the LA region spent nine billion dollars on public transit (almost all rail) over 30 years, yet fewer rode that transit in 2015 than they did 30 years ago.