​Why Higher Taxes for Potholes is a Bad Idea

road_blockTo paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we go again. Once more, taxpayers are being told by our political elites that, if we want good roads, we have to have higher taxes.

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Just a few weeks ago, this column exposed the politicians’ plan to hike gas taxes along with vehicle license fees and registration. This plan, by San Jose lawmaker Jim Beall, would slam taxpayers in three ways. First, it would raise at least $3 billion annually by increasing the gas tax by another 10 cents a gallon. Second, it would hike the vehicle license fee, which is based on value, by more than 50 percent over 5 years. Third, it would increase the cost to register a vehicle by over 80 percent.

The latest scheme is Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 which would weaken Proposition 13 by eliminating the two-thirds vote for local transportation sales taxes. ACA 4 is a bad idea. California already has the highest state sales tax in the nation. Not only that, but sales taxes are highly regressive, hitting the poor and working middle class the hardest.

It is true that California ranks very low nationally in the condition of its roads and highways. But, in addition to an already high sales tax we also have the highest income tax rate in America and the 4th highest gas tax. (And, by the way, that gas tax doesn’t even include the cost of California’s one of a kind “cap and trade” regulations which substantially increases the cost of every gallon of fuel pumped in California).

The truth is that the sad condition of our highways has nothing to do with the lack of tax dollars and has everything to do with poor management and bad choices in deciding where our transportation dollars are spent. Our taxes are far more likely to be paying for projects we don’t even need — like High Speed Rail — or a bloated Caltrans budget than they are for fixing roads.

There’s another compelling reason why, should it ever make it to the ballot, ACA 4 deserves to be resoundingly defeated.  At least 20 counties in California, including all the large ones, have already passed higher sales taxes with the two-thirds supermajority vote mandated by Prop 13. Billions of dollars have been raised by these so-called “Self-Help Counties” all for transportation purposes. In going to the voters, local officials have to make sure that they propose projects that are truly needed. Lowering the vote threshold will only incentivize waste and the funding of pet projects, not the high priority needs of California motorists.

We believe very strongly that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay the price for bad decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats. Until our elected leaders direct the vast amount of money already available for highway improvements to those needed projects, we certainly shouldn’t consider even higher taxes and weakening Prop. 13. That’s why HJTA will oppose ACA 4 and we urge all California taxpayers to do the same.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Originally published by the HJTA.org


  1. sweetsuzee says

    Many major headaches would vanish if and when the state figures out how to overcome the unfunded pensions. My city’s budget a while back was 20% for pensions. Today it is 80% of our budget. This is unsustainable, unconscionable and necessary to rein in lest we go the way of Greece.

  2. Perhaps we should fill the potholes with the bodies of politicians and apparatchiks?

  3. First and foremost retirement benefits must be trimmed to what non government workers get on average. It is obnoxious that you can retire with more than when you worked of just under what your regular pay was. Any new tax program should be voted down including bonds.

  4. Leftocrats have never seen a tax they didn’t want to put on ME. But they’d better remember that Gray Davis raised the CAR REGISTRATION and that’s how we got Arnie. Housing, Fuel & Car Registration hit’s everyone and people don’t like it.

  5. Rottweiler says

    Where is Kevin James when you need him? I think he is in charge of public transportation and would never go for this!

  6. So a women was raped and when the Police asked her if she could identify her attacker she said “I’m not sure but I think he worked for Caltans”. When asked why she thought that she replied “He was wearing an orange shirt and made me do all the work!”
    Funny, but with a reputation that bad, Caltrans needs to go. Private industry could do much better much cheaper.

  7. Karl H. Studinger says

    The state already charges 38.4 cents per gallon of gas pumped plus .8% sales tax. How much do they need to keep the roads in good repair? Maybe if we turn our entire income over to the state they will have enough, but they will surely find a way to spend more.

  8. The reason it is a bad idea is that they will fix no potholes with the money. If SFMTA wants to spend any of their billion millions on potholes they can do so without raising one more red cent.

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