This letter was released as a commentary by State Senator Mike Morrell (R- Inland Empire) on June 12, 2017.
In April, Democratic leaders forced through the state legislature $5.2 billion annually in new and permanent taxes on drivers across California, amounting to the largest gas tax increase in state history.
For years, the majority party in Sacramento has refused to make our state’s aging infrastructure a spending priority. They are laser-focused on raising taxes rather than first considering where reforms and efficiencies can be made with existing resources.
However, Californians know they already pay enough for the services and programs they expect. Polls conducted have consistently shown that Californians oppose the idea of higher gas taxes and vehicle fees. A poll recently released by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies shows opposition to the newly approved gas tax at nearly 60 percent statewide.
This sentiment is in keeping with the reason why, in 2002, voters passed Proposition 42 confining the sales tax on gasoline to transportation purposes only. But shortly after, legislators still siphoned off the money to the state budget. Voters responded in 2006 with Proposition 1A, limiting the legislature’s ability to suspend Proposition 42. Then the legislature used accounting gimmicks to pay off bonds instead of build up our highways. Citizens responded again in 2010 with Proposition 22, prohibiting gasoline excise tax funds from being used to pay for debt. Now the legislature diverts $1 billion a year from trucking weight fees to the state budget’s general fund.
Majority party leaders have promised that the taxes will be used to pay for roads and highways. Yet despite claims otherwise, $80 million will be spent on parks. Another $100 million will be used to fund the Active Transportation Program, likely for bike paths and walkways – not roads. To put these figures in perspective, only $110 million will be used on new infrastructure. These are just some of the expenditures.
While the increases will be felt by all, the added tax on diesel will perhaps cause the greatest financial hardship. Consider that 78 percent of California communities rely solely on trucking to have their goods delivered. If fuel costs rise, trucking companies will have no choice but to increase the cost of moving freight. If shipping costs increase, so will the price of the products shipped. Already operating on thin margins, wholesalers and storeowners will have no choice but to pass on these additional costs.
In the end, those most hurt by tax increases on driving will be the working poor, those on fixed incomes, and the middle class. It will especially hit those who have few options but to drive long distances every day just to get to work or take their kids to school.
Californians want the state to better prioritize its spending, to get its finances in order just like each of us has to do every time we balance our checkbooks. Instead, under one-party rule in California, taxpayers find themselves having to pay more for government that delivers less.
Senator Morrell (R-Inland Empire) represents the 23rd State Senate District, which covers portions of Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties.