By County Supervisor Sue Frost
A couple months ago I wrote an article for Rio Linda Online to discuss my opposition to the “gas tax” that was working its way through the California Legislature. Predictably that bill was signed into law shortly after my article was released, and since its passage, I have had more questions about the details of how this new law will impact Sacramento County than any other topic. So I want to take this opportunity to give you a status update and to dispel some misconceptions people may have.
First, let me explain exactly what the new law does. It raises the gas tax by another 12 cents per gallon, it hikes the vehicle license fee by over 50%, raises the cost of registering a vehicle by 80%, and more than doubles the diesel tax. Surely, with this much money being taken from the taxpayers the problem is going to be fixed, right? Wrong.
Sacramento County roadways are in critical condition, as I’m sure you can testify to as you play “avoid the pothole” as you drive to work every day. This is because our deferred maintenance costs for just our pavement is sitting at around $450 million, and the word “pavement” is important because it doesn’t include the deferred maintenance of things like bridges, sidewalks, and traffic signals. During the course of the next 20 years, the money Sacramento County will get from California due to the recent tax increases will only fix around 1/3 of our current deferred maintenance costs for our pavement issues. This also doesn’t account for the deferred maintenance costs that are going to stack on top of this for the 2/3 of the roads that don’t get worked on between now and then.
This is the most optimistic scenario, because this is making the huge assumption that the State doesn’t raid this money and divert it to something else in the future. As has been proven time and time again, when California is strapped for cash, they have no problem taking the money they need from the Counties and Cities.
If we want our roads to be fixed in anything short of the distant future, we are going to need to either make enormous investments at the local level (to the great expense of other programs), or pass a local tax measure dedicated solely to fixing the problem. But the crafters of such a tax should be careful, as my Rio Linda survey I conducted earlier in the year showed that while 54% of you would pass a local transportation tax if it were dedicated solely to the roads, only 13% of you would pass a transportation tax if it included money for other things like public transportation. Either of these two plans poses challenges.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who attended my Rio Linda/Elverta Community Cabinet meeting on May 10th at the Visitor’s Depot Center. Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me, call me at 916-874-5491 or e-mail me at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.
Sue Frost represents the 4th District, which includes all or part of the communities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Orangevale, Antelope, Rio Linda, Elverta, Gold River, Rancho Murieta, North Highlands, Carmichael, Foothill Farms and Fair Oaks.