Report 97014 Summary - February 1998

California Transportation Commission and Department of Transportation: The State's Use of Transportation Funds Generated by the 1989 Transportation Blueprint Legislation

Results in Brief

This is the sixth in a series of annual reports required by Chapter 16 of the Statutes of 1990. The 1989 Transportation Blueprint Legislation (Transportation Blueprint) increases state transportation taxes, fees, and bonds and outlines priorities for the use of these moneys, which are referred to as blueprint revenue.

The California Department of Transportation (department) has allocated Transportation Blueprint revenues according to applicable program statutes and guidelines and has spent these revenues according to statutory requirements. Through the end of fiscal year 1996-97, the seventh year of the ten-year blueprint program, total revenues were 57 percent while expenditures were 47 percent of the total blueprint estimate of $18.5 billion. In addition, of the total blueprint appropriations of $11 billion, $1.2 billion remains available for obligation in future fiscal years. Finally, revenues totaling $736 million have been redirected to special projects or the State's General Fund.

We found that the Transportation Blueprint projects we examined adhere to statutory requirements. Moreover, the California Transportation Commission (commission) allocated the blueprint revenue according to applicable program statutes and guidelines. Further, the State spent the blueprint revenue according to statutory requirements and correctly calculated its formula-based disbursements of these funds to cities and counties.

We also found that the revenue sources designated in the Transportation Blueprint will not produce the $18.5 billion anticipated by the legislation within ten years. The shortfall includes $2 billion lost when voters rejected two bond issues. Additionally, if collections for fuel taxes and commercial weight fees continue at the same rate as collections for fiscal year 1996-97, resulting in a shortfall of $1 billion, the total revenue shortfall will be approximately $3 billion.

We found that the department did not spend or commit to spend (obligate) all the funds it had statutory authority to obligate. Specifically, the department did not obligate approximately $1.2 billion in legislative appropriations for Transportation Blueprint projects. However, a major portion of these appropriations are for lengthy construction projects. The department is authorized to obligate these funds over a three-year period. It therefore may still obligate these balances in the future.

During the first seven years of the Transportation Blueprint, the department allowed the spending authority for $1.1 billion, allocated to a variety of projects, to expire. The department said this occurred primarily because project costs were less than the estimated costs that were used to determine the appropriations.

We also determined that over the past seven years, blueprint revenue of approximately $736 million has been diverted to seismic retrofit for major earthquake damage to the highway system, or transferred, pursuant to legislation, to the State's General Fund. In addition, excess blueprint revenues of $1 billion will be transferred to emergency reserves or future transportation projects.

Agency Comments

The department concurred with the presentation of the data in our report. In addition, they were pleased that we found continued accountability for the Transportation Blueprint programs in accordance with statutory requirements.