Following the voter rebuke of San Benito County Measure P, the local one-half cent transportation sales tax, the Board of Supervisors approved a letter to the state legislature backing Senate Bill (SB) 1, a massive $6 billion annual transportation bill that is mostly higher and new taxes because the state is offering a small "bribe" to local jurisdictions — less than 37 cents back on each tax dollar.
This is not the first time or the first place that a local government was willing to throw their taxpayers under the bus in exchange for a small piece of the pie. SB1 is being sold as a bill to fix local roads, but the truth is that the state is going to rake off 63 cents of every dollar before the locals see a penny. If we're going sell out we should at least insist on a fair share of the swag.
At least $5 billion of the $6 billion will be generated directly on the backs of the drivers and transporters who have already paid the state for new roads and maintenance many times over only to see those funds diverted to other uses. The rest is just the usual “fool around funding” such as returning some of the road transportation monies that were diverted or “unused” cap and trade funds.
The proposed new taxes would include $1.8 billion from a 12-cent a gallon increase to the gasoline excise tax, $1.1 billion from a reset of the gasoline excise tax rate to 17.3 cents per gallon, $1.3 billion from a $38 annual increase to the Vehicle Registration Fee, $600 million from a 20-cent per gallon increase to the diesel excise tax, $263 million from a 3.5 percent increase to the diesel sales tax, and $20 million from a $100 to $165 – yet undecided – annual Vehicle Registration Fee on zero emission vehicles. It is estimated that total gas taxes including cap-and-trade will then approach 70 cents per gallon.
Additionally, all the taxes and fees would be adjusted for inflation every three years. The built-in inflation increases mean that the cost will continue to grow and the state’s massive transportation bureaucracy, which already returns less road per dollar than almost all of America, has no incentive to keep their exploding costs under control.
Worst of all, of the $6 billion only $2.2 billion, less than 37 percent, goes to local transportation. The rest will go to the state transportation system including, directly or indirectly, into mass transit such as the infamous, money-eating bullet train whose contractors have recently asked for another $300 million to build the short, goes nowhere, “easy part” of the system.
The county’s take when it is all phased in over three years would be $3.1 million a year, but the cost to the local taxpayers would be about $8.4 million a year, $7 million a year of that in new or increased taxes.
According to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in the last six years the California general fund has increased more than $36 billion with zero dollars going to new transportation infrastructure, $3 billion a year of sales tax dollars from the purchase of new and used vehicles are going to the General Fund rather than road repair and $1.1 billion of truck weight fees are diverted to pay off bond debt.
This is not an argument about whether or not the roads are in lousy shape – they are – and we have an enormous backlog of construction and maintenance. I supported Measure P. Those who voted "no" are likely to be very unhappy with paying more than twice as much including to the county through a backdoor arrangement with Sacramento. This is an argument about how money is being spent at the state level and whether or not we should subsidize another diversion of funds. Only 20 percent of the state’s General Fund income provided by transportation is going to road repairs which means that 80 percent, including massive cap-and-trade funding for the bullet train, is going to other sectors.
Locally, it makes no sense for our politicians to give the state a dollar only to get back, at best, 37 cents to use on local roads just because it provides political cover. I do not buy the argument that “we” are not raising the taxes, "they” are. At some point the BoS will have to go to the residents to fill vital local needs and the residents will have empty pockets. This is a shortsighted decision that will end up hurting our commuters most of all. To sum up, it’s simply not worth it; at some point you have to stop bailing and patch the hole in the boat; that hole is the mismanaged state budget.
Add Facebook comment
Comment using your Facebook account. Facebook comments will be published on this page, and on Facebook. It will not be posted to the "Recent Comments" list on the BenitoLink front page.