By Carl DeMaio
We’ve heard it all before. Every time state politicians want more money from you with a tax hike they promise they will use the money to address something you really want. Unfortunately, just as Lucy always snatches the ball from Charlie Brown, the politicians always end up taking your money and breaking their promises.
You pay more and get less. That’s the story of California’s failing state government.
The latest bait-and-switch comes in the form of the car and gas tax hikes.
Years ago politicians raised the gas tax, took out billions in bonds, and promised they’d fix our roads. Instead they raided the gas tax funds and diverted our money – time and time again.
The net result: California drivers have been paying some of the highest gas taxes in the country, and yet we still have the fourth worst roads!
Where does the money go?
First, it gets diverted. State Senator John Moorlach recently released figures showing only 20% of gas tax funds are actually spent on roads!
California politicians have been clear about their distaste for cars because they are fanatics on the issue of Climate Change. Billions of gas tax dollars get diverted from roads to transit programs as politicians reveal zero interest in expanding roads or dealing with traffic congestion.
While politicians claim they won’t divert the money this time, their so-called lockbox is pure snake oil and simply a PR stunt. Read the fine print and discover the politicians retain the right to divert the money!
Just weeks after politicians raised the gas tax this past April, they were caught diverting much of it to other purposes including transit, parks, universities, workforce and even farm programs!
Second, of the little gas tax money that is spent on roads, it is largely wasted.
California state government is already known for paying bloated salaries and pensions to its government workers, but the it gets worse with Caltrans, the state’s lead agency for managing roads.
In 2016, California state auditors slammed Caltrans for “weak cost controls” that “create opportunities for fraud, waste and abuse.” Those same auditors also found Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees at a cost of half a billion dollars a year. One Caltrans employee even golfed for 55 days while on the clock and bragged about it!
The few dollars that actually make it out the door of Caltrans’ bloated bureaucracy for road projects are also wasted. For example, individual road projects must pay mandated union-scale wages, do not allow fair and open competition for projects, and waste funds on convoluted CEQA environmental reviews.
All of this waste adds up quickly. According to the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report reveals that California spends 4.7 times more per mile of state-controlled highway as the national average. This is despite the fact that many other states have much more icy and wet weather to contend with.
There is a larger issue at stake here. The fight against the car and gas tax hikes is not just about the pain at the pump, it is about the heavy burden every working family is increasingly feeling as California’s cost of living reaches unbearable levels with new taxes, fees and mandates from out-of-touch politicians.
Under this latest hike, the gas tax goes up by 12 cents a gallon and new tax assessment changes will make it a 19.5 cent per gallon hike by 2019! On top of that you will pay a much higher vehicle license fee. All in that’s an extra $300-400 per driver per year!
That’s not all. New cap-and-trade mandates will raise the cost of gas as much as 63 cents a gallon. Add it all up and state politicians are now forcing you to pay an extra $1 or more per gallon in taxes, fees and mandates. If you gas up once a week for a car with a 20 gallon tank, you pay $1250 more per year. A family with two drivers shells out $2500 a year.
We can stop this madness by starting with the repeal of the gas and car tax hikes. That’s why I joined a coalition of reformers in filing a State Constitutional amendment to roll back the taxes and strip state politicians of their power to raise car and gas taxes in the future without a vote of the people.
You can join the grassroots movement and help collect the more than 584,000 signatures to force this issue on the ballot in November 2018 at www.stopthecartax.org .
It’s time we pay less and get more!
Carl DeMaio is a former San Diego City Councilmember who is Chairman of Reform California – the campaign against the car and tax hikes.