Opinion

Passing Prop 6 will cost us more than a few extra pennies at the pump

Construction crews repair state highway 120 near Yosemite last year after winter storms saturated the ground beneath and caused portions of the road to collapse. Proposition 6 would result in delays in such repairs.
Construction crews repair state highway 120 near Yosemite last year after winter storms saturated the ground beneath and caused portions of the road to collapse. Proposition 6 would result in delays in such repairs. AP

Can’t wait to vote yes on Proposition 6 to roll back higher gas taxes?

If you do, then you’re going to need a pair of really sharp scissors. That’s because you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. And your pocketbook.

For people living in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, the gas tax does a lot more good than harm. That’s why we’re hoping Proposition 6 fails.

If this cynical political ploy passes, it’s unlikely the ACE train will ever be pulling into Modesto or Merced. Forget about that new parkway from Highway 99 to the UC Merced campus. And the matching money your city was counting on to help patch the potholes on your street? There won’t be nearly enough to go around.

So go ahead, vote to kill the gas tax. Then enjoy lousier roads, crumbling bridges and dodging through battle traffic to get to the Bay Area.

And God forbid you ever get stuck in a traffic jam like the one in Redding last week. County roads became impassable after residents were ordered to evacuate. Many drivers sat in idling cars watching in their mirrors as far-away flames edged ever closer.

The only reason this proposition is on the ballot is to give anti-tax Republicans a reason to go to the polls. Party bosses are hoping that while they’re there, they’ll vote for a conservative candidate. It’s a classic wedge issue.

If Prop 6 passes, and 2017’s Senate Bill 1 is tossed out, roughly $52 billion in road money gets tossed out with it.

You might recall that Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres was the pivotal yes vote in the state Senate; Adam Gray’s vote was key in the Assembly. Each was vilified in conservative corners across the state – including in their own districts. But we were exceptionally proud of their votes.

Both Cannella and Gray did what leaders are supposed to do – the right thing. And yes, they were rewarded for it with promises of an ACE train extension and road projects.

“The people (that Cannella and Gray) represent are some of the poorest people in California – this is help for them,” said Gov. Jerry Brown at the time. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars coming into these communities, and that’s good.”

The true trophy was a promise to bring the Altamont Corridor Express commuter train to Modesto, Ceres and Merced – tying our communities more closely with the Silicon Valley. It means people living here will be able to get to better-paying jobs on the coast more quickly and without driving. People who can’t afford a house in Palo Alto or Fremont can find a nice place here to raise their kids.

For us, better roads and rail links to the Bay Area (and Sacramento via Amtrak) are crucial. But there are similar dreams all over the state, which is why organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club, 29 labor groups, the Building Industry Association, the League of Women Voters, the California Highway Patrolman’s Association and dozens more all urge a “No” vote.

It’s tempting to vote to save a few cents at the pump and to repudiate the tax-happy politicians. But 6,500 bridge, road and transit projects awaiting gas-tax funding. If Prop 6 passes, those projects get put on hold – perhaps permanently.

What does that mean here? About $359 million in San Joaquin County and $275 million in Stanislaus. The city of Modesto would forgo repaving 93 miles of road, and Tuolumne County would lose out on 51 miles. Twenty bridges on Interstate 5 between Merced and Stanislaus counties would not be repaired, and much more.

One last thing, voting for Proposition 6 does not mean gas taxes won’t go up. Provisions in the cap-and-trade law allow the California Air Resources Board to raise gas taxes by 50 or even 70 cents a gallon if air pollution targets are not met.

That’s a real threat now that Donald Trump’s EPA is trying to roll back California’s groundbreaking clean-air measures – rules that helped make the most polluted air in the nation breathable.

Keep all those bad roads, the bad air, delayed emergency responses and disappearing commuter trains in mind when Nov. 6 rolls around and vote no on Proposition 6.

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