Jason Gibbs: More transparency needed in state legislation

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In a recent opinion piece published in The Signal entitled “Acosta, Wilk: don’t claim credit for improvements,” a group of engaged and concerned citizens politically attacked our state Assembly member and senator for their recent attendance at a groundbreaking ceremony for an Interstate 5 rehabilitation project.

This group claims the legislators’ attendance at the ceremony for the $171 million project that will repave and repair roughly 16 miles of I-5 freeway was both hypocritical and insulting, since both men voted “no” on the recently passed Senate Bill 1 for transportation funding.

My synopsis of this bill is simply California roads and transportation infrastructure will be improved with the money coming from a 12 cent/gallon additional tax on gasoline, 20 cent/gallon tax hike on diesel, plus a new value-based vehicle license fee.

I believe you will be hard-pressed to find anyone on either side of the aisle who does not believe our roads and infrastructure need immediate and serious attention. The Interstate 5 specifically serves as a main artery for California’s transportation needs and facilitates access. California’s ability to support the world’s sixth largest economy (based on GDP) depends in large part to maintaining I-5’s usability not just for our valley commuters, but for the state as a whole.

Where the discourse comes from is how the problem is addressed. Mr. Wilk and Mr. Acosta, along with nearly every Republican lawmaker in the state Legislature, opposed yet more tax increases with SB-1. They wanted to address infrastructure by prioritizing spending of the current public funds available, not simply diving right back into our bank accounts and telling us this is the only way to get what is needed in terms of infrastructure improvement.

One may be inclined to ask, then, did the Republican Legislature have any sort of plan that could have provided funding for these repairs without simply taking more taxes? In fact, there was!
Assembly Bill 496, the Traffic Relief and Road Improvement Act, was introduced in February. Instead of following the Democrats’ example of higher taxes and fee increases, the bill’s goal was to ensure money paid by motorists was spent on transportation, and that typical bureaucratic red tape that inhibits infrastructure projects would be cut and the process streamlined.

Unfortunately, there was no debate regarding the validity or feasibility of this plan, and the last activity showed the bill sitting in committee since March 1.

Perhaps the real hypocrisy this letter should have focused on is not the lack of support from our representatives for Senate Bill 1, but the “our way or the highway” attitude from the current super-majority in the Legislature.
Or maybe the hypocrisy lies with the Legislature itself for the very real abuse of our tax dollars, seeing that the dominant Democrat Party has continually refused to prioritize transportation funding for the past decade. The same Legislature that touts SB-1 as a victory is responsible for the lack of initial investment of transportation taxes into road improvements as they continually raided the transportation fund to support other projects.

Now they come to the taxpayers acting like they had no idea what happened and that increasing taxes and fees on arguably the most-taxed population in the country is the only way to solve this problem.

The group who put their names to this letter should be reminded of something. There is nothing wrong with Mr. Wilk’s and Mr. Acosta’s attenance at the groundbreaking, as they absolutely support the project!

What they do not support is the new mechanism put into place to fund similar activities down the road. Even if they had supported SB-1, SB-1 had no bearing on this rehabilitation project being funded (unless you really believe the government could plan and execute such an effort in four months).

A reoccurring complaint heard from both sides of the political spectrum, from local to federal issues, is our leaders’ unwillingness to discuss and debate openly, and honestly, when it comes to legislation. In California, with the current Democratic super-majority, that party controls more than just the ability to pass any piece of legislation it chooses.

Perhaps just as significant is Democrats’ ability to dictate what legislation gets discussed in the first place. But let’s not be naive, those with political power will not intentionally do something that may jeopardize that power.

If you silence the minority and continue to beat the party drum as the only way to prosperity, you end up wasting column space talking about a picture we don’t like and not the ceaseless political untruths that got us here in the first place.

Jason Gibbs is a Santa Clarita resident.

 

 

 

 

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