SOURCE: League of California Cities

League of California Cities

June 12, 2009 23:46 ET

State Proposed Diversion of Gas Tax Is Illegal According to League of California Cities Legal Analysis

SACRAMENTO, CA--(Marketwire - June 12, 2009) - The League of California Cities released a legal opinion today by a prominent Sacramento law firm that concludes that the proposed seizure of almost $1 billion in city and county motor vehicle, or gas, tax funds to help close the state's budget deficit is unconstitutional. Prepared by the law firm of Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor, LLP, the opinion points out that in both 1974 and 1998, voters imposed restrictions on the state's ability to use gas taxes for debt service on bonds and to divert local gas taxes for the state general fund -- precisely what has been proposed by state leaders.

First proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the May Budget Revise, the raid was approved yesterday by the Joint Budget Conference Committee on a party-line vote. Not only is the proposed action unconstitutional, but it will put at risk the safety of all Californians who use the local streets and roads that make up the more than 80 percent of the state's road system. The League has shared the legal opinion with the legislative leadership, the Budget Conference Committee, and the Governor. A copy of this opinion has been posted online at

Loss of the gas tax funds will seriously compromise cities' ability to perform critical safety related street maintenance such as drastically curtailing street patching and resurfacing, street sweeping, street light and traffic signal maintenance, bridge maintenance and repair, snow removal, sidewalk and curb ramp maintenance and repair, and much more.

Without these funds some cities will have no choice but to eliminate part or all of their street maintenance operations. Other cities will cut back in other areas including police and fire services to pay for basic street repair and maintenance. Poorly maintained streets will mean delays in emergency response times and increased costs for drivers whose vehicle repairs will rise because of worsening street and road conditions. As street conditions consequently worsen, injuries and traffic accidents will rise, leading to greater injuries and loss of life in some cases.

Beyond the immediate public safety concerns that would result from loss of street maintenance funds are the environmental impacts of this proposal. Reductions in street sweeping and worsening road conditions will mean increased water pollution runoff to nearby streams and the ocean, longer car idling times, higher greenhouse gas emissions and more respiratory problems for vulnerable populations.

Established in 1898, the League of California Cities is a nonprofit statewide association that advocates for cities with the state and federal governments and provides education and training services to elected and appointed city officials.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Eva Spiegel
    (916) 658-8228
    Cell (530) 400-9068