As you read this, the State Legislature is gearing up to attempt its first raid on local government. The urgency of this warning can’t be overstated; If they achieve this smash-and-grab by taking (not even borrowing) the Highway Users Tax Account gasoline tax, cities and counties will see their ability to maintain their streets and roads crippled.
San Bernardino County currently relies on these gas tax dollars for potholes, rehabilitation and resurfacing of 2,700 miles of paved roads in the unincorporated areas alone. If the County were to lose just the HUTA dollars alone (about $32 million), an estimated 200 essential public works personnel would lose their jobs immediately.
Among budget proposals that will likely be voted on are billions in additional raids of transportation dollars, including deferring the first two quarterly payments of the local (city and county) share of Proposition 42 state sales tax on gas, equal to approximately $300 million, which would further hinder local road safety projects, maintenance and repairs.
These raids would disproportionately impact transportation funding, especially when the industry is facing 20%+ unemployment. It comes at the worst possible time, and would result in the loss billions of dollars in economic activity — exactly when California should be investing in programs like infrastructure to boost our struggling economy and generate more revenues for our state.
Raiding transportation funds also goes against the will of voters. Voters have twice overwhelmingly supported measures to guarantee the state sales tax on gasoline goes to road improvements. Any proposals to borrow or repeal funding dedicated to transportation ignore the clear mandate set by voters. In 2006, 77% of voters approved Proposition 1A, preventing the state from using sales taxes on gasoline for non-transportation purposes.
We’re talking about streets and roads! As I’ve said before, these are not optional services. I hope the Legislature remembers that. I know the 58 counties and the people will.