Roadshow: Transportation measures 1A & 1B; Prop 87 oil tax
- Published Wednesday, November 1, 2006, by the San Jose Mercury News
A no- (or little-) nonsense look at the transportation measures
By Gary Richards
Mercury News Staff Columnist
Q It's about time you started speaking up about the propositions
that we will be voting on next week. I love hearing your level-
headed comments without the mudslinging campaigns. One says if you
want to better the roads, vote yes on 1A through 1E, but do all
pertain to roads? Excuse me for not even looking at the ballot
measures, but I can't stand the double-talk coming from both sides.
A You may not think I am so level-headed after today. Two
transportation related measures are on Tuesday's ballot. One will
likely be a slam dunk, while the other could be too close to call.
Proposition 1A would guarantee that the sales tax on gas purchases
goes to transportation, something voters approved four years ago
with an escape clause. That money -- about $1.2 billion a year --
can be diverted to the general fund in times of financial need and
that's what happened for the past few years. This measure would
allow the state to continue that practice but it would be required
to pay back those funds. It won't raise taxes and has strong voter
Proposition 1B is the $19.9 billion bond that would help pay for
repaving and widening roads, expanding transit, upgrading traffic
signals and a host of other needs. Polls show it ahead, but not by
* Transportation faces a monstrous shortfall, more than $100
billion, so every penny helps.
* Money would be allocated in the first 10 years of the 30-year
bond, saving millions to start projects like widening Interstate 580
in the Livermore Valley, 101 from I-280 to the San Benito County
line, and I-880 from 237 to 101.
* It would take 30 years to pay off the bond. For every $1 raised,
another $1 is needed to pay off the debt.
* After 10 years, the state will still be faced with a problem: More
cash is needed, lots more.
Q Gary, about these propositions for transportation: Read my lips:
NO NEW TAXES!
A Those words likely cost George Bush the Elder re-election when he
raised taxes late in his second term. But many economists say his
tax hike paved the way to the economic boom we enjoyed in the 1990s,
as it reduce our national debt.
Higher taxes could be a better way to fund traffic improvements.
If the state gas tax were hiked a dime, it would rake in around
$2 billion a year. After 10 years, it would raise $20 billion -- as
much as Proposition 1B. And then there would be no debt to pay off.
With $2 billion extra coming in every year after that.
Why doesn't this get support? We are greatly to blame. Politicians
are afraid to talk about any tax hike, thinking they would be voted
out of office so fast by knee-jerk rivals who would pounce on any
official supporting a dime hike at the pump. So we get a credit card
measure that adds to our debt. We could show financial sense and pay
more at the pump now and keep the credit card packed away. I know.
I'm nuts. But am I right?
Q Opponents of Proposition 87 argue that it will cause gas prices
to go up. I don't think that's a bad idea. When driving in Europe,
where prices are higher, you never see big gas guzzlers, which makes
our oil go further, not to mention roads safer.
A Proposition 87 would tax California oil production, raising an
estimated $4 billion to pay for alternative fuel research. The goal:
worth pursing. The real impact: anyone's guess.
Q I am in favor of a gas tax increase. If the proceeds go to transit
projects, commuters will win two ways. More spending on roads or
mass transit will help improve traffic. Also, more expensive gas
will encourage people to either drive less or drive smaller cars.
A Maybe I'm no so nuts after all.
Q In the Sunol area on southbound I-680, there were two speed bumps
in the No. 2 lane near Andrade. One has been ground down, but the
larger one is still there. Any chance it will be removed? ... Gary,
this is bad. Go see for yourself and hope your Prius suspension can
Tim Veritas, Ralph A. and many more
A I did, but I took the mini-van, as I could not bear my Prius
smacking into this hole. Caltrans will grind down the bump tonight,
but plans to repave I-680 here are years away.
Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@... or 408.920.5335.