For the second time in as many weeks Californians got the news that Sacramento politicians are proposing yet another big tax hike. The truth is that new taxes would never be required were it not for Sacramento’s mismanagement of existing tax dollars.
Last week, it was the proposal to deal with the very real problem of “revenue volatility” in California’s tax structure with the very unreal “solution” of a $10 billion tax on services.
But the latest proposal comes from the new Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins who proposes a brand new tax on drivers to pay for highway and road repairs in California. This new “fee” would take $1.8 billion dollars out of the pockets of hard working California citizens over the next five years.
Now, most Californians would wholeheartedly agree that our roads are in terrible shape. Years of neglect have resulted in a highway system that, according to a recent state report, requires a massive infusion of $59 billion. But taxpayers have a very good question that has yet to be answered: How is it that California has the highest gas tax in the nation and yet cannot keep its roads in decent condition?
Moreover, although the exact nature of this new “fee” has yet to be determined, Senator Atkins’ comments in proposing the new revenue source can only be described as foolish and insulting. Here is what she said: “California cannot have a strong middle class or a thriving economy if our roadways are congested and people and goods cannot move efficiently.”
Really? A left-wing politician now claims that this new tax is needed to protect the middle class? She is simply blind to the truth that the progressive policies of heavy taxation and over regulation are crushing the middle class in California. As is so common now in California, statements from politicians such as Atkins reveal a profound disconnect between their pampered lives and the lives of ordinary citizens.
So, instead of slamming Californians with another tax hike, what is a better way to meet the funding needs for our crumbling highway system? Glad you asked.
First, let’s demand that gas tax revenues pay for roads, not bike lanes, environmental mitigation programs and mass transit. The latter programs are all well and good, but gas taxes should go for roads. (For purposes of full disclosure, as a cyclist I support bike lanes. But I don’t want my gas taxes paying for them).
Second, how much of our transportation dollars are wasted on burdensome labor restrictions? So-called “Project Labor Agreements” add between 25 to 35% to the cost of highway construction. Let’s get rid of PLA’s and, while we’re at it, “prevailing wage” laws which also add to the cost of construction unnecessarily.
Third, let’s direct valuable transportation dollars to those systems that actually work. This would mean abandoning the doomed-to-fail High Speed Rail Project that is sucking up tax dollars in a way that voters never approved.
Fourth, we can agree that gas tax revenue has fallen a bit short of expectations because cars are now more fuel efficient. But if that is the case, why does the state still subsidize electric vehicles? Shouldn’t we abandon those subsidies and direct those dollars to filling potholes?
Instead of reflexively demanding higher taxes, our elected officials should do what other states seem to do without controversy – prioritize spending. Now there’s a novel concept.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.