State gas tax increase should be repealed
By Linda Pfeifer
In April, Sacramento politicians passed Senate Bill 1, the largest gas tax increase in California history. SB 1 also increased all vehicle registration fees.
Politicians passed SB 1 because they said California has an estimated $59 billion in deferred highway maintenance and approximately $79 billion in local streets repairs, and because better gas efficiencies have reduced gas tax revenues.
But what the public was not told is that since 2010, approximately $15 billion to $20 billion dollars in gas and transportation taxes and fees (e.g., truck weight fees) have been diverted away from California road repair. This doesn’t include the cap-and-trade dollars diverted for “high-speed rail” instead of road repair.
In fact, only about 20 percent of money in the state general fund generated by transportation revenues actually goes to road repair.
The diversion of transportation taxes and fees contradicts voters’ will. California voters passed Proposition 42 in 2002, Proposition 1A in 2006 and Proposition 22 in 2010, all protecting transportation revenues for road repair and maintenance. Unfortunately, the spirit of these propositions has not been honored in Sacramento, where billions were diverted away from road and highway maintenance.
Had these funds not been diverted, California would have had more than enough to maintain our highways and roads.
Instead of fixing a broken system, Marin representatives, Assemblyman Marc Levine and Senator Mike McGuire, joined their peers to pass SB 1, a bill so controversial and regressive against the middle class and lower-income earners that SB 1 only passed by one vote.
How hard does SB 1 hit the middle class and low income earners?
Example: $3.39 per gallon rises to $3.58 under SB 1, up 19 cents a gallon (12 cents plus another 7 cents with SB 1’s hidden gas excise tax provision). It’s higher for diesel fuel.
Even worse, SB 1 isn’t a “one-time” gas tax increase in 2017. Beginning in 2020, SB 1 raises gas taxes every single year, tied to inflation, forever ... in perpetuity ... ad infinitum. SB 1 has no sunset. After 2020, that 19-cent increase can grow higher and higher with inflation indefinitely.
Are you retired on a fixed income that hasn’t kept pace with inflation? Are you under-employed? Are you a renter or new homeowner? SB 1 just spiked your cost of living.
SB 1 is regressive, too, which means your middle-class wallet will pay the same gas tax as a billionaire.
SB 1 also raises annual car registration fees. For example, if your car registration is $271 per year, SB 1 could spike it to $321 per year, a $50 increase on average. For electric cars, that $271 rises to $371. It’s worse for trucks.
SB 1 is the highest gas tax in California history, and the people didn’t even get to vote on it. SB 1 had no public vote, no ballot statement to generate public debate and scrutiny. Instead, the politicians in Sacramento passed SB 1, and added last-minute “sweetheart” deals for swing-vote politicians to the tune of millions of dollars.
Now, in addition to paying the highest state car registration fees, highest state income tax and highest state sales tax in the country, Californians will be paying the highest state gas fees under SB 1.
How long before some of SB 1’s billions are diverted, too? How long before the next big tax? Already Sacramento is mulling a “service” tax (e.g., plumbers, consultants, electricians).
What can you do about it?
Plenty. First, go to NoCaGasTax.com and support the effort to repeal SB 1. Second, follow the website — HJTA.org — a lead fighter against SB 1. Third, join local taxpayer advocacy group Co$t Marin (CostMarin.org). It’s time to repeal SB 1 and stop burdening the middle class and lower-income earners.