As state lawmakers consider a massive infrastructure bill, supporters say it's needed not only because it would repair California's roads and bridges, but because it would generate a lot of jobs.
SB 1 would invest about $50 billion over 10 years to infrastructure projects. It would raise the money by hiking the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon (20 cents per gallon for diesel) and by imposing an extra fee on new cars.
There has been no independent analysis of how many jobs the infrastructure plan might create. The bill's backers are instead pointing to a 2011 White House study, which found for every $1 billion spent on highway infrastructure, about 13,000 new jobs are created.
The bill is designed to raise about $5 billion per year in infrastructure spending, which, by the White House study's estimate, translates to roughly 65,000 jobs annually.
That figure includes "direct jobs," which are positions paid for directly by the government funds (such as roadwork crews), and "indirect jobs," which are created by suppliers (such as gravel yards and asphalt manufacturers). The employment projection also includes "induced jobs," which trickle throughout the local economy as more direct and indirect workers are hired.
The California Alliance for Jobs, which lobbies for infrastructure projects on behalf of construction firms and unions, is working hard for the bill, said Executive Director Michael Quigley.
The "hundreds of thousand of jobs" created over the life of the project would be a boon for people who don't have college degrees, he said, because they would be "middle-class jobs with good wages and health care and benefits."
Generating work for that part of the population "will really ... help do something tangible about the deep inequity that we're facing in California between the haves and have-nots," said Quigley.
Economists say California has recovered the jobs lost since the Great Recession, but it hasn't regained the same balance of low, middle and high-wage jobs. Middle-class jobs have not come back in high numbers.
Gov. Brown and a host of Democratic lawmakers have thrown their support behind the bill, arguing that California's roads and bridges are desperately in need of repair.
Opponents argue that Californians already pay too much in taxes, and that the legislature could redirect money from other projects to pay for road repairs.