Opinion: Caltrans must be held accountable for misspent funds

It was clear from the beginning that voters didn’t trust Sacramento to spend new gas tax revenue for its promised purposes.

In the push to pass Senate Bill 1 in 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature agreed to put a “lock box” measure on the ballot to protect the new transportation revenue from budget raids, and they also agreed to create a new position at Caltrans — an independent inspector general with the authority to investigate transportation projects and make sure public dollars are spent appropriately and legally.

Senate Bill 1 passed narrowly, sharply raising taxes on gasoline and diesel along with a noticeable hike in vehicle registration fees. Californians were told the revenue from the tax increase would be used to repair roads and bridges and fund transit improvements.

Clearly skeptical, voters passed the “lock box” measure, Proposition 69 on the June 2018 ballot, with over 80% of the vote. Yet the lock appeared to be picked earlier this year when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to redirect transportation funds to projects that address climate change.