Editorials

On this All Saints Day, we can pray for patience in dealing with government

All Saints Day could turn into All Complaints Day this year.

Those with a penchant for grousing are going to have a field day Wednesday, All Saints Day. That’s when change begins to impact three areas of our lives.

Change No. 1: Gas will cost more as of Wednesday morning.

Change No. 2: If you live in Modesto, you’re going back to drought-condition watering regulations, meaning no more than twice a week.

Change No. 3: Nov. 1 is the day each year when clean-air restrictions kick in, meaning you’ll have to check before you start a fire in your fireplace.

About that additional gas tax. A gallon will cost 12 cents more today than it did Tuesday (meaning if you didn’t fill up Tuesday, oops!).

A lot of people will be shaking their heads (if not their fists) at our state’s politicians, who voted for the tax so we could begin fixing our rotting roads. Without federal help, which no one expects, it’s up to Californians to do it. Hence the tax.

Many believe the current gas taxes are misspent, recalling a time when the state dipped into so-called “special funds” for other priorities. While the road fund was raided years ago, that practice has been prohibited and now all the money collected through gas taxes has gone to the road fund – as will this new money. Making sure that happens is the job of our state auditors.

California isn’t the only state using higher gas taxes to fix roads. This year, Tennessee, South Carolina and New Jersey all increased gas taxes; in fact, 26 states have passed gas taxes to fix their roads since 2012.

And no, we don’t have the highest taxes on gasoline, but it does feel like it. The Tax Foundation says California’s gas taxes (as of Wednesday) total 50.1 cents per gallon. The state with the highest gas taxes is Pennsylvania, at 58.3 cents per gallon. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

California insists on cleaner fuels that release less smog-forming particles. Oil companies have always made us pay a premium for breathing air that doesn’t destroy our lungs. Add that premium to the taxes, and the average price for a gallon of California gasoline now becomes the most expensive in America – matching Hawaii at $3.16 per gallon.

Do we like it? No, but we’d rather pay a few extra pennies for gas than breathe filthy air or drive on dangerous, crumbling roads.

That desire for cleaner air and clearer skies is also behind the annual ritual of checking for no-burn notices that begin appearing in the newspaper and online on Nov. 1 each year. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will start enforcing restrictions today.

Now about those watering restrictions. The city’s website makes it clear this is being done at the state’s behest in an effort to help the aquifers beneath the city recover from the drought. We get it, though Modesto’s aquifer has been rising since the city started tapping the Tuolumne River for half its drinking water.

These changes have one thing in common – getting us to think about conservation. The less gas we use, the less we’ll pay in taxes. The less firewood we burn, the easier we’ll breathe. The less water we use, the more we’ll have for non-rainy days.

Change can be annoying, even aggravating. But we’ll get used to paying a little more, burning less and watering only twice a week (until the rains arrive and we can shut off the sprinklers entirely). And we’ll be better off for it. So happy All Complaints – err, Saints – Day.

Praying for relief?

▪ Saint Matthew, a former tax collector, is the patron saint of money management.

▪ Saint Florian is the patron saint of chimney sweeps and firefighters.

▪ Saint Kateri is the patron saint of the environment.

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