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OUR VIEW: Roads need fixed, but new tax was a step too far

The Union Editorial Board

You’ll have to work hard to find someone who thinks California’s roads are in great shape.

The evidence is, after all, right underneath our feet — and our wheels.

Taken a drive to Truckee recently? You’ll likely need a chiropractor. Happened upon Interstate 5 from Southern California to Sacramento? Glad to hear you made it back in one piece.

Our roads, highways and bridges are in poor shape, but a $52 billion — with a “B” — gas tax isn’t the right way to fill this budget pothole.

This latest tax is merely the symptom of a larger disease. There’s been little to no accountability in our Capitol.

This whole tax stinks of burned rubber. Just look at the deal with state Sen. Anthony Cannella, a lawmaker about to term out, who got $500 million worth of projects for his district.

Cannella said his arm was twisted. Let’s not mince words: he was bought, and power brokers used our money to do it.

Lawmakers like Cannella get about $100,000 a year to do their jobs. It’s nice work that comes with travel reimbursement.

Meanwhile low income and even middling income folks are huddled over checkbooks, wondering if they’ll continue to make ends meet when the new tax kicks in.

The North State will be one of the hardest hit areas. We’re the ones using winding roads between work and home that cut into good gas mileage. No bullet train is going to help us.

But maybe the worst thing about this gas tax is how it’s being thrust on us. A supermajority of the Legislature pushed this through with little discussion among its members and certainly not its constituents.

This is a tax that will affect every driver in this state. How about a series of hearings over several months at the Capitol before voting on it? How about a fact-finding panel that received testimony at meetings held across the state before forcing this through?

Why not put this tax to a vote of the people, or is this not as important as the question of adult film actors using prophylactics?

Instead of taking the time and doing this right we got a Legislature dominated by one party hitting the accelerator before seeing if its passengers want to go on a ride.

Hint: We don’t.

The worst part of this new tax isn’t the smoke-filled rooms or star chambers, the poor political process or even the hit to the pocketbook — it’s us. As a collective, it’s Californians who elected this supermajority.

This latest tax is merely the symptom of a larger disease. There’s been little to no accountability in our Capitol. Sure, this gas tax will anger some people but likely not enough to cause change in Sacramento.

If the Legislature and governor at some point down the road decide to divert the tax funds, will voters react? If there’s no accountability, why not shell out millions for political favors or take the easy path because of your supermajority?

We must demand accountability from our elected leaders for change to occur. The gas tax is a reality; that battle’s over. We must be ready for the next “must do” project that falls on the backs of the voters.

In the meantime, check your couch cushions for spare change. You’ll need it.

The weekly Our View column represents the viewpoint 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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