MTC Gearing Up to Defeat Proposition 6

The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission is gearing up in opposition to Proposition 6, on the November 2018 California ballot. Proposition 6, a constitutional amendment ballot initiative, would not only repeal the increases in fuel and auto registration fees mandated by Senate Bill 1, but would also require that any fuel or vehicle related tax increase be approved by voters. Here is how MTC views Proposition 6,

Passage of Proposition 6 and the resulting repeal of SB 1 would not only put portions of funding for local streets and roads in peril, but also would imperil plans for replacing worn-out transit vehicles and other basic needs of the Bay Area’s aging transit systems. It also would jeopardize plans for additional capacity for BART and the regional rail system’s extension to Silicon Valley, the electrification of Caltrain in the Peninsula, and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) rail system’s planned extension from San Rafael to the ferry dock in Larkspur, among other projects.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp, a regular contributor to neighborhood newspaper the Westside Observer, offered his insight into what’s wrong with SB 1 in his September 2018 column.

The 2017 increase renders California's gas tax the highest in the nation and flaunts the 1922 legislative decision to finance highways, roads, and streets by a "user fee." Such user tax revenue should be deposited in the State Highway Fund, not the General Fund, not used for public transit, the DMV, or California Highway Patrol.

… State politicians have used gas tax revenue for purposes other than highways, roads, and streets, including state general fund spending. Caltrans cannot be trusted with efficiency; California's highway construction costs per lane mile are 62% over the national average, engineering costs 42% more, and maintenance workers obtain a third more than the national average.

In other words,

* Contrary to MTC’s characterization of Proposition 6 as “Pothole Peril,” funds from SB 1 will go towards numerous projects unrelated to potholes or other street and highway disrepair.

* Guarantees by SB 1, as well as Proposition 69 passed by voters June 2018, that SB 1 funds will be used for transportation projects, could be described as meaningless, since the California legislature’s view of “transportation” is exceptionally wide.

* SB 1 funds will surely end up as mismanaged as all the other funds intended for “transportation,” considering Judge Kopp’s view of Caltrans’ costs.

Additionally, Proposition 6 does not place the fixing of potholes in peril, since all the legislature needs to do is place the tax increases of SB 1 on the ballot for voters’ approval. And by the way, the requirement that fuel taxes and vehicle related fees be in the future voter approved is really the crucial intention of Proposition 6.