Victor Lindenheim | For Our Roads, Vote ‘No’ on Proposition 6

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

There was a glaring omission in Betty Arenson’s opinion piece in last Saturday’s Signal and in Jonathan Kraut’s Sept. 18 column. Both articles make no mention of what the Santa Clarita Valley gets from Senate Bill 1 – or stands to lose with a repeal – of the current law that raises $52 billion over 10 years for transportation improvements throughout California.

So what does our valley lose with a vote to repeal the “gas tax?” A whole lot, including:

• $247 million for I-5 improvements (toll-free HOV lanes, new truck lanes, auxiliary lanes, bridge widenings, soundwalls);

• $61.4 million for the city of Santa Clarita to improve local roads and transit;

• $8.9 million for a new Metrolink station at Vista Canyon;

• $3.5 million for a pavement rehabilitation project on SR 14;

• Much more, including the opportunity to apply for future competitive grants.

By the way, did you know that the city’s current slurry coat program for local roads (e.g. McBean Parkway) was paid for with local return funding from SB 1?

If the “gas tax” is repealed, what happens to these and other planned and ongoing projects throughout the state? They get delayed, deferred or deleted. So, until there is a Plan B – a viable alternative to SB 1 — I will continue to support what we have.

Look, I don’t like paying taxes, either. But I dislike unsafe, crowded roads and crumbling, rusted bridges even more. It’s been 28 years since Sacramento increased the tax on motor fuels. Half the states in America — both Red and Blue — have increased their gas taxes in the last five years. There is no question that the need is there.

Last June, subsequent to the April 2017 passage of SB 1, a “lockbox” constitutional amendment (Proposition 69) was passed by an overwhelming margin (81 percent for; 19 percent opposed) to ensure that revenues collected for transportation purposes were expended as intended.

These legally enforceable assurances attracted substantial support for SB 1 from the business community, including: the California Chamber of Commerce; California Building Industry Association; California Small Business Association; Los Angeles Business Federation; Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Los Angeles Business Council; Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.; the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, and, many others.

Proposition 69 was part of a legislative package that included the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (RRAA). RRAA, which was also known as Senate Bill 1, enacted an estimated $5.2 billion-a-year increase in transportation-related taxes and fees, including a 12-cents-per-gallon increase of the gasoline excise tax, a 20-cents-per-gallon increase of the diesel excise tax, a 4-percentage-point increase of the diesel sales tax, an annual $25 to $175 transportation improvement fee and an annual $100 zero-emission vehicles fee.

Proposition 69 required that revenue from the diesel sales tax and transportation improvement fee (TIF) be dedicated for transportation-related purposes.

Why not extend that protection to the other revenue sources? Because the state constitution already prohibited the Legislature from using gasoline excise tax revenue or diesel excise tax revenue for general non-transportation purposes.

Although SB 1 required revenue from the zero-emission vehicles fee to be placed in the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account, Proposition 69 did not contain a provision creating a constitutional mandate for zero-emission vehicles fee revenue, estimated to generate $18 million annually. An intentional oversight? Perhaps.

So, in the main, the revenue collected will, by law (ACA5/Prop. 69) be invested only in transportation-related projects and services – 65 percent on highways and 20 percent on public transportation.

We get safer roads, improved mobility, enhanced goods movement and cleaner air. And thousands of good-paying jobs will be created. Thousands of them.

The Golden State Gateway Coalition has been working diligently for more than 15 years to improve mobility and safety, relieve congestion and enhance freight movement on our north Los Angeles County roads — particularly Interstate 5.

SB 1 funding contributes substantially toward projects that achieve these goals. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Vote “No” on Prop. 6.

Victor Lindenheim is the executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition.

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