Lowenthal negotiating local control for container tax revenue
The author of a controversial State Assembly container tax bill is considering amendments to the bill that would allow the state's major ports and city governments to allocate revenue the tax would generate.
State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and author of the SB974 bill, told a state legislative hearing June 25 that he is negotiating amendments to the bill that would allow 'local government entities,' such as the ports or cities, to allocate some of the $500 million in annual revenues the bill is expected to generate.
The bill seeks to impose a $30-per-TEU fee on all containers moving through the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland. Under the bill's current version that is moving through the assembly, the estimated $500 million in annual collected revenues would be evenly split between infrastructure improvements and environmental programs with the goal of improving goods movement and mitigating port impacts. The infrastructure funds would be limited to rail and non-highway container moving systems, such as the short-haul maglev, or magnetic levitation transport, system being shopped around by a San Diego group.
This is Lowenthal's third attempt to get a container tax bill passed. The first died on the assembly floor and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the second attempt last year.
Lowenthal told the hearing that he was working with the Los Angeles City Council to hammer out conditions council members wanted addressed before offering support to SB974. Last week a council committee forwarded a proposal for conditional support of SB974 if Lowenthal added three amendments:
* Local government entities, not the California Transportation Commission, would be authorized to allocate funds collected locally.
* Allow funds to be spent to replace the aging Commodore Heim and Gerald Desmond bridges, both major traffic and vessel chokepoints at the Port of Long Beach.
* Incentivize compliance, rather than penalize non-compliance, with a Long Beach and Los Angeles ports' clean air plan.
The Los Angeles City Council's proposed conditions are a close mirror to a mid-April vote by the Long Beach Harbor Commission. The five-member port-governing board offered conditional support for SB974 with three caveats, including local control over local money and bridge issues. A third condition by Long Beach wants SB974 to include language freeing the ports from commitments to meet long-term air quality standards if outside regulatory actions or legal rulings prevent the ports from doing so.
No date has been set for a vote by the entire City Council on the proposed support of Lowenthal's bill.