Our View: It’s time for our voice to be heard on gas tax | TheUnion.com

Our View: It’s time for our voice to be heard on gas tax

Getting slapped with a 12-cent gas tax hurt hard when we first realized it was coming.

It was April when Gov. Jerry Brown turned the screws, ensuring we’ll lose just a bit more money every time we fill up at the pump and get our new tags each year.

Our roads are bad, we were told, as if we needed a reminder. Estimates claim the new tax will raise some $5.2 billion for road repairs and improved mass transportation. Isn’t it for the common good that we open our wallets once again?

Sure it’s for the common good, but wouldn’t it have been a lot better if we’d put this burden on ourselves at the ballot box instead of a supermajority of legislators hoisting it on us?

We’re not arguing about the sad state of our roads and highways. They’re bad. They need work.

And this money is getting spread around. Nevada County’s expected to get almost $13 million over the next five years from this tax. (Of course, some back-of-the-envelope math will tell you we could get even more if the money was kept local.)

There are plenty who would argue this tax should have been on the ballot, allowing all California voters to weigh in. But should we really keep running to the ballot box every time there’s some new issue to decide? Shouldn’t we let our elected leaders do what they feel is necessary? You know, actually lead?

In many cases, yes. In the case of this gas tax, it’s an emphatic “no.”

This massive price spike at the pump, scheduled to start Nov. 1, absolutely requires a question on the ballot. This isn’t the equivalent of a statewide plastic-bag ban — a question our Legislature certainly could have handled on its own. This is a tax that affects every driver who stops at a gas station in California, a state with almost 40 million people.

It’s past time we had our voice heard on this issue.

Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen, running for governor, wants a repeal question on the November 2018 ballot. He recently scored a win in court when a judge said the title and summary of the question offered by the state attorney general’s office was misleading and must be rewritten.

Now it’s time to gather signatures.

Don’t get us wrong — we’re not advocating repeal. We’re supporting a statewide vote that gives the people of this state the choice: Do they want to tax themselves an extra 12 cents for every gallon of gas they buy?

Let Sacramento hear our voices on this gas tax, and if it’s repealed, let our leaders take a bit more time to figure out how we should fix our roads.

Because taking the time and educating ourselves are really the issues here. Instead of forcing this tax through, our Legislature should have taken weeks, if not months, to delve into it. How will it affect people of lower incomes? Could it be sunset after a number of years?

And, one of the most important questions, how can we ensure the money actually goes toward improving roads?

If we get the chance to vote on this in November 2018, we must educate ourselves as well. Look at revenue that would be raised, look at your own monthly income. Is this a tax that is necessary and one you can support after giving it a good, hard look?

Because, really, if anyone is going to turn the screws on our wallets, it should be us.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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