Under the heading “good news and bad news” comes this: the good news is that according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state will end this budget year with a surplus of $5.6 billion. That’s $4.5 billion more than was anticipated.
Of course the reason is that in 2012 the voters approved an increase in both the sales and corporate taxes, so you would think that there would not be a push to add more taxes this coming year. Well, you would be wrong. A bill moving through the Legislature by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, a Democrat from Concord, would add 5 cents for every mile driven by your car and would raise $110.3 billion for six Southern California counties. The bill would take the place of the state gas tax of 52.9 cents per gallon.
The bad news about this bill is that it penalizes all of those people who wanted to do the right thing by buying more fuel efficient vehicles or electric cars, but as usual, no good deed goes unpunished by the state. Worse yet, it hits the lower income group the hardest because they have the least disposable income, and if they must drive an average of 8,500 miles a year at 5 cents per mile driven, it comes to $425 a year in taxes or $35 each and every month in vehicle taxes on top of the amount people must pay in fuel. Currently if you fill up every two weeks with 20 gallons each time, you are paying $275 per year in gas taxes. Under this new bill you would pay $150 more in taxes than you pay now with no guarantees that the tax would not be increased each and every year.
Ask yourself, how much of this tax would go to repair our roads? If you guessed not much, you would probably be right.
Speaking of road repairs, remember the safety widening project that was projected for Highway 199 this summer? It took Del Norte County years to get these badly needed funds for the road repairs. It didn’t take much to figure out that at the last minute, the Friends of Del Norte and EPIC would find a judge to halt the project. The judge will not rule on their objections until November, which will put off the project another construction year, and if the judge should rule in Caltrans’ favor, you can expect that the Friends and EPIC will get another judge to issue an injunction to halt the project again at the beginning of the construction season for the next year. If that happens, it is projected that Cal-Trans may delete the funds for this project and give the money to Southern California. I wonder what the Friends will say the next time a big rig with a load of nasty polluting materials fails to navigate a turn and ends up in the Smith River, killing the fish, polluting our drinking water supply and costing us thousands of dollars in cleanup costs.
In case you had your head in the sand, you should know that it’s campaign season. If you vote by mail, you have already received your ballot. So when will you be mailing or bringing it into the county clerk’s office? If it follows true to form from the 2012 primary election, 20 percent will turn theirs in 15–20 days from election, 15 percent will get them in from 8–14 days out, 25 percent will get them in three to six days from election and almost 40 percent will get them to the clerk’s office in the last four days before election day itself.
Now the part I call the “Did You Know segment for old timers,” those who have lived in our county for thirty years or more. I doubt you’ll find the answers online, but you can try.
• What was the route taken by the stage line, to reach Gasquet from Crescent City in the 1800s?
• Who played Mama in the LRT play “I Remember Mama”?
• In the opening game of the Del Norte Warriors 1985 Football season, what team did Del Norte face: Eureka, Arcata or Ferndale?
Bob Berkowitz is a Crescent City resident and president of LifeStyles Research Co.