February 2002

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Cal-Tax Commentary 

Proposition 42: Raising Quality of Roads Without Raising Taxes
By Larry McCarthy

Larry McCarthy is president of the California Taxpayers’ Association (Cal-Tax). For more information on Proposition 42, visit the campaign Web site: www.yesprop42.com

Proposition 42 will help make our roads safer and relieve congestion without new taxes. It simply takes the existing sales tax on gasoline, a tax we already pay at the pump, and uses that transportation tax to help solve the state’s transportation problems.

Proposition 42 addresses an infrastructure need that is critical to California’s economic well-being.  It does so by creating a reliable revenue stream that the state’s independent legislative analyst and other budget analysts have said transportation planners need as they design and build projects that may take up to 20 years from start to finish. Unfortunately since the late 1950s, transportation spending in California has diminished from 15% to 5% of state and local budgets. Proposition 42 moves to reverse this negative trend. Every day we face the longest commutes and some of the most serious urban congestion found across the country. A new study by The Road Information Program found we have the most deteriorated roads and we spend the least per capita to fix them. Our transportation infrastructure has become so overburdened that safety is an issue. More than 6,000 California bridges and overpasses are structurally deficient or no longer meet highway safety or design standards.

Proposition 42 tackles these problems directly. It requires that the existing gasoline sales tax be spent fixing potholes, repairing deteriorated roads, making safety improvements to intersections and streets near schools, improving traffic flow on highways, and expanding public transit services. It will help improve infrastructure from basic city and county street maintenance programs, and finance projects to improve our major regional highways and freeways. Every city and county in the state will be guaranteed additional revenues to improve and maintain local roads.

The infrastructure benefits of Proposition 42 come with an economic stimulus bonus. Coming at a time when our economy could use a boost, speeding up transportation projects creates thousands of new jobs in construction, engineering and related services. Every dollar spent on highway improvements generates about six times that amount in economic benefits.

Another important point about Proposition 42 is that it does not harm the economy or slow the recovery by demanding more government spending. Instead, it wisely makes use of existing revenues. The existing gasoline sales tax becomes the revenue engine driving our response to transportation needs.  There is no new tax, or fee or gimmick. Proposition 42 simply spends existing gasoline sales tax dollars the way most Californians believe it ought to be spent – fixing roads and improving transportation.

Finally, while Proposition 42 provides new transportation funds, it also provides a strong dose of accountability. An annual audit of Proposition 42 funds will be required to help guarantee transportation projects get delivered on time and on budget. It’s this kind of oversight that assures taxpayers that their hard-earned tax dollars are used efficiently and generate the greatest results.

Not surprisingly, there is strong taxpayer support for Proposition 42. Lead by this organization, the California Taxpayers’ Association, more than a dozen regional and local taxpayer organizations call for a yes vote on Proposition 42. We are joined by the California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable, California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California Transportation Commission, California State Automobile Association (AAA), Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA), cities and counties, and law enforcement organizations.

By creating a dependable revenue stream with our existing tax dollars to help address California’s critical infrastructure need and providing careful stewardship of those dollars, Proposition 42 improves California and gets us moving safely again.

(c) 2002 California Taxpayers' Association