Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Community Voices: Gas tax hurts working families

Community Voices: Gas tax hurts working families

Aug 5, 2018

I’m a farm worker rights activist, and founder and board member for Pick Justice and California Farm Workers & Families – which means I work on behalf of the thousands of agricultural workers that harvest the food which comes to your table every night. My family and I are fortunate to play such a vital role in our state economy and to the communities we serve. It’s not an easy lifestyle and we sacrifice like most working families to provide our kids with a better future.

That’s why I don’t understand when Sacramento politicians passed SB 1, the punitive gas and car tax during the last legislative session. It increased the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, the diesel tax – frequently used on farms – an even higher 20 cents a gallon and the vehicle license fee by as much as $175 a year. In fact, my truck’s DMV annual registration fee almost doubled this year. The total looted in by the state would be $5.2 billion a year.

The SB 1 vehicle tax especially punishes those of us living in rural areas. We have to drive long distances just to do our jobs. And the higher gas tax will be passed on to the agricultural products we farm, meaning everyone will have to pay more for the food in the grocery aisles. The cost of the tax increase for most Californians averages $700 a year, but for many rural citizens, it comes to thousands of dollars, enough to kill small business and threaten our jobs.

Which really begs the question: why weren’t Californians given a vote on the tax increase? Gov. Jerry Brown and big business groups have done everything they can to take away our voice. Running for governor in 2010, Brown gave his solemn promise of “No new taxes without voter approval.” He broke it by signing SB 1. He should be backing our democratic right by supporting Prop. 6 – not opposing it. Give us a voice!

Yes, our roads are in terrible shape. We in the farming communities know that most of all, as we drive our products to market across thousands of potholes. But the money already is there to fix them. Unfortunately, Gov. Brown and big business groups are misleading the public by claiming there is no money to fix our bridges and roads unless taxes are raised.

Consider these facts:

Sacramento politicians have actually reduced Caltrans funding by 18 percent over the last 10 years.
Seventy two percent of all state motor vehicle related taxes and fees collected by the state are used for programs other than streets, roads and highways.
State government has a $16 billion budget surplus, but the legislature decided to spend billions this year on their pet projects instead of improving roads, bridges and highways.
Higher fuel taxes are passed along to consumers, increasing the cost of almost everything we buy. California is already too expensive; this massive tax increase makes things worse.

The Sacramento politicians need to learn a lesson: come to voters first if you want to raise taxes. Lay out your reasons. Forget the special interests and instead convince Californians.

I call on Gov. Brown and big business to end their opposition to Prop. 6 and lock arms with working families in supporting the repeal of the punishing SB 1 gas tax.

The job you save may be your own. This Nov. 6, vote yes on Prop 6 to repeal the gas tax.

Jesse Rojas is a farm worker rights activist, spokesperson for Pick Justice and founder of California Farm Workers & Families PAC.

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