No other issue has dominated California politics like the gas and vehicle registration tax increases this past year. These tax increases angered voters in State Senator Josh Newman’s district so much so, that a recall election to remove him from office will be held on the June 5th primary election.
As well as, mobilized voters throughout the state to begin a petition drive to put a ballot measure in front of voters to decide the fate of these tax increases.
With approximately 400,000 out of the 585,000 signatures needed to put this ballot measure before the electorate; it is almost certain that the voters will decide the fate of these tax increases.
According to the Sacramento Bee:
A December poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found 52 percent of likely voters would support an initiative repealing the increases, while 46 percent said they “strongly” support repealing the charges.
I’m with the 52 percent.
Now Governor Jerry Brown wants you to believe that a state with one of the highest gas and car registration tax prior to this massive tax increase of 52 billion dollars over the next decade is needed to simply maintain our roads.
So let’s get this straight.
We have some of the highest taxes and we have the largest population in the US and thus we have the most car and the most taxpayers and somehow we don’t have enough money to repair the roads we have already built?
The common sense concept of economy of scale would seem to contradict the idea that we don’t have enough money.
Now, remember these tax increases are not primarily focused on new roads but to maintain the roads we already have.
Funds to be used for new roads or lanes cannot fund general purpose freeway lanes, which are the main lanes used by most drivers. But rest assured those billions of tax dollars you are paying can be used to build toll roads, which of course if you want to use them, you will have to pay a toll fee.
So you get to pay an extra toll fee to drive on a road you were taxed to build. Sounds like a great deal, does it?
I don’t think so.
Remember building new roads costs more than maintaining roads.
If we had enough money to build these roads then we should have plenty of money to maintain them?
Those that are pushing for these tax increases may argue that when a tax is structured based on a certain dollar amount like 12 cents instead of a percentage (e.g. 4%), needs periodic tax increases due to the fact that money over time loses purchasing power due to inflation.
This is a valid argument for a tax increase when the tax isn’t based on a percentage but a fixed monetary amount per gallon.
With more fuel-efficient cars and electric vehicles, it would seem that a tax increase could be or at least will be needed eventually.
But the question is, is that time now?
The answer is no and here is why.
We have too many government employees
In a July 28, 2015, article by the Sacramento Bee:
As part of their effort to pay for the major transportation overhaul Gov. Jerry Brown has called for without levying new taxes, Assembly Republicans have proposed cutting 3,500 full-time positions from the California Department of Transportation, at a savings to the state of half a billion dollars.
Their proposal is taken from a 2014 Legislative Analyst’s Office report, which says Caltrans has too many engineers who prepare and oversee construction projects. The cut represents about a third of those positions, which the analyst’s report suggested could be eliminated without an effect on transportation work.
Obviously, unions and politicians that depend on union dues funneled into their re-election campaign coffers disagree with the findings of non-partisan LAO finding that 3,500 jobs should be cut.
Now, of course, these same unions and politicians will say, with billions of additional tax dollars coming in each year these employees will be necessary.
That is a fair argument but my counter would be, have you ever heard of outsourcing?
Outsource repairs via a competitive bid like most states
According to Senator John Moorlach:
We ask the governor to reduce the size of Caltrans even more by outsourcing services. An average state transportation agency outsources 50% of its architects and engineers. Arizona and Florida outsource more than 80%. Caltrans outsources only 10%.
If the governor is concerned about economic cycles, then let’s address it by being nimble during downturns. It is easier to terminate or postpone contracts than it is to lay off a portion of the state’s work force. Fortunately, 54% of the staff at Caltrans are at or near retirement age, so a hiring freeze would be a great strategy to implement, and reductions could be easily achieved through attrition.
Outsourcing alone would save us billions a year. More than enough to avoid these tax increases.
In the same article, Senator Moorlach helps explains how local control and local tax increases is a better way. Things like Measure M in Orange County which is a 0.5% voter-approved tax to help fund our local roads and freeways.
I voted for this when it came up for reauthorization. With effective use of tax dollars by local government and some of the best roads in California. I was more than willing to vote to keep this tax on the books.
Moorlach also states:
Ask the governor to delegate some transportation construction to the counties. If a county’s department of transportation can manage road repairs more efficiently, then cut out Caltrans and direct those funds to that county’s department.
My idea of Trickle-up-Taxation is similar to Moorlach’s suggestion for most government functions but instead of asking the governor, we the people, just take the power out of state legislator’s hands and bring the decision-making process and keep tax dollars closer to home.
Spend wisely not recklessly
If we need to raise taxes, I understand that.
But don’t divert billions out of the gas tax and use only 20 percent towards road repair and then say we don’t have enough money.
We work hard and spend hours each day commuting to and from work, away from our families, and then you have the gall after you recklessly spent and diverted our tax dollars to ask for more.
I’m okay with paying more taxes if it is actually needed, but before you come to me and ask for more, come to me and show me you spent our tax dollars wisely and the only opinion left is to raise taxes.
Until you respect the taxpayer to spend our money wisely by maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of each dollar you can take back your tax-hike increase. We don’t want it.