Assemblyman Dante Acosta: Truth about the new gas tax

Dante Acosta. Dan Watson/The Signal
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I think we can all agree that today’s political climate is too full of shouting with too little listening. The American Psychological Association, which polls about the major stressors in our lives, found in January that 66 percent of Americans felt stress over the future of our country.

Unfortunately, people looking to score political points often see this fear and stress as a great way to manipulate the truth.

This is why I was not shocked to see the emotionally charged column published in The Signal Aug. 26, written by several people and titled “Acosta and Wilk, don’t claim credit for improvements.”

What the column boils down to is the writers are upset Sen. Scott Wilk and I voted against the largest gas tax hike in California’s history, Senate Bill 1, and weeks later attended a groundbreaking for an Interstate 5 resurfacing project.

The core of their complaint is that I am being dishonest by attending a groundbreaking while at the same time I voted against billions of dollars of new and deeply unpopular tax increases.

Their argument is based on the premise that the SB1 taxes are paying for that I-5 rehabilitation project. They are wrong; it is not.

The fact is SB1 tax hikes haven’t even taken effect yet. The California Department of Transportation Pavement Rehabilitation Fund is actually the source of the I-5 project.

I voted against SB1 and called its passing “disheartening” because the $52 billion in new taxes and fees disproportionately hurt the poor and middle classes and are only a cover for the managerial failings of Sacramento.

I represent Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and a portion of the San Fernando Valley – an area full of the exact kind of commuting folks who will be hit hardest by this.

I promised voters I’d be more than just a “no” vote in Sacramento. And that’s why – long before voting against the terrible gas tax increase that will hurt my constituents – I worked with my colleagues to put forward a plan to repair roads and expand transportation infrastructure – without increasing the cost of living.

Our plan, AB 496, would have spent billions not just repairing road surfaces, but investing in new roads, bridges and lanes that would have reduced traffic and helped bring sanity to our daily commutes.

Unfortunately, the majority party in Sacramento defaulted back to raising taxes. It was a regressive and callous way to create a top-down solution to a problem of their own making.

In fact, the SB1 tax increase wasn’t even necessary. For example, since 2008 truck weight fees collected from personal and semi-trucks have been redirected to the General Fund, not used for road repair as they should be. The same is true of much of the gas tax, diesel tax, and vehicle license fees that are currently collected.

The majority party created a crisis on our roads by rerouting money for years and then pretended the only way out was billions more of your tax money be taken. Now, they promise, we’ll spend it on roads. I hope this time they stay true to their word. But 30 percent is already at risk of being spent elsewhere, and the taxes haven’t even been collected yet.

In light of these facts, I hope the authors of that column can understand my decision to actively work on a real solution instead of just demanding more taxes. When Sacramento Democrats rammed through the unnecessary gas tax, I felt compelled to vote in the interest of the people I represent who would be hurt by Sacramento’s mismanagement.

The authors of the column framed this as “contempt for the people of this area through blatant hypocrisy.” They also said I and my colleague in the Senate were demonstrating “nothing at all but more lies and cronyism and grandstanding.”

Our children and grandchildren are watching, and what we can leave as an inheritance to them is a political system that agrees that despite our differences of opinion, we will always make our words meaningful and true. Disagreements are OK, but truth matters.

Dante Acosta is representative for the 38th California Assembly District and a Canyon Country resident.

 

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