To Preserve Funds for Roads, Transit, Vote No on Prop. 6

The following is a summary of an Op-Ed piece by the Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards:

Governor Jerry Brown’s political opponents have gathered signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot that would overturn his gas and car tax increases. So, voters will have a say, after all, on the transportation funding plan (Senate Bill 1 — the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.) But when they cast their ballots, they should side with Brown. They should uphold the increases by voting No on Proposition 6. Note that we said vote No. A ‘yes’ vote would overturn the transportation plan; a ‘no’ vote leaves it in place.

The plan, approved by the Legislature at Brown’s urging last year, will raise $5.1 billion annually by 2020 to help fix our deteriorating freeways and local streets and refurbish our commuter trains and buses. About two-thirds of the money goes to highways and roads, mostly for repairs and maintenance. The rest goes primarily to public transit operations and capital projects, and for improving congested transportation corridors.

The transportation plan increases gas taxes by about 18 cents a gallon, roughly 5 percent of the current cost, and registration fees by $25 to $175 annually, depending on the value of the vehicle. It’s reasonable to put the financial burden on those who drive for they use our streets and highways. Just as important, they should be encouraged through pricing mechanisms to seek environmentally friendly options, such as more fuel-efficient or zero-emission vehicles and public transportation.

Another troubling part of Prop. 6 is that it would require a statewide vote for future tax or fee increases on vehicle fuel or registration. Backers of Prop. 6 want to raise the bar by requiring voter approval. Ironically, their use of the initiative system to put the issue on the ballot demonstrates that we already have sufficient checks on the Legislature and governor’s taxing authority. To now lock in voter approval for fuel and car tax increases is excessive. The two-thirds approval of the Legislature and initiative threat are enough. At some point, we need to let our lawmakers do their jobs. And if we don’t like what they’re doing, we should replace them.

So, in sum, Prop. 6 misses the mark on two counts: It reverses badly needed funding for roads and transportation, and it imposes unnecessary restrictions on future fuel and car taxes. For either or both reasons, voters should say No.