Opinion by Jon Coupal
A coalition of government entities and special interests which thrive on transportation dollars recently sent a threat letter to Republican members of Congress because those members have the audacity to oppose the huge tax increase passed by the California Legislature with the enactment of Senate Bill 1. The threat was not well received and, in fact, will likely backfire on the tax increase supporters.
The SB 1 tax hike imposed without voter approval is very unpopular according to virtually all public and private polling. Realizing how unpopular the gas tax is, several Republican members of Congress are contemplating support for a measure to repeal that tax.
Had the letter stuck to issues of transportation policy – such as why California needs to have the highest gas taxes in the nation – it would still have been wrong but at least it wouldn’t have been offensive. Unfortunately, supporters of the tax decided to take the low road and issued a thinly veiled threat that would have been more fitting for an episode of The Sopranos. Specifically, the letter stated “we don’t think your objective is to create new political adversaries.” Moreover, the letter states that the coalition would “mount a robust and powerful effort in opposition to this initiative, using the voices of California’s business community to counter your efforts.”
As distinguished from the self-interested motivations of the tax increase proponents, including big construction corporations, the California Republican congressional delegation has decided to put the interests of middle class taxpayers first and they should be commended for it. Indeed, in their written response, they demolish the arguments advanced by the special interests.
It is clear that the tax-and-spend coalition is interested in feeding their addiction to tax dollars and not rational transportation policy. For example, they did not support Assembly Bill 496 (Fong) which would have re-purposed billions of dollars in truck weight fees and the sales tax revenue from new and used vehicles to address California’s road maintenance backlog. They did not acknowledge that billions from the gas tax swap being diverted into the General Fund should have been returned to our roads.
Not surprisingly, the special interest coalition of government entities, labor organizations and big construction firms are more than willing to throw citizen taxpayers under the bus in their disingenuous claim that the money is legitimately needed to address California’s transportation needs. They choose to ignore that, in passing SB 1, they were slamming Californians with the highest gas and car taxes in the nation. They never acknowledged that General Fund spending had increased by $36 billion over the last six years, to a record $122 billion dollars, with not one dime going to transportation purposes.
Republicans in Congress are well within their rights to respond to a majority of their citizens and demand repeal of SB 1 and a right to vote on similar measures in the future. If these local government associations, construction trade unions and “concrete salesmen” truly believe these gas taxes are popular and have majority support of the electorate, there is no reason to either threaten Members of Congress or oppose this potential ballot measure.
Editor’s note: This piece was edited for space.