As with many propositions introduced in state elections, Proposition 6 has become complicated and contentious.
Its supporters and opponents are now vigorously arguing their positions in counties and cities around the state.
Discussions surround whether increased gas and registration costs will affect low-income families, or will eliminate funding that has, and will continue to, pay for major road repairs around the state. Add to the confusion that many websites claim to have facts that contradict the claimed facts of opposing websites.
Locally, the proposition has also sparked discussion about whether motorists are justified in driving over the border to Brookings to fill up their tanks with tax-free fuel.
What it is
One cannot make an educated vote on Proposition 6 without first understanding the implications of Senate Bill 1, also titled the Road Repair and Accountability Act. It was signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown after passing the Senate and Assembly with a two-thirds majority.
According to the state website, the legislative package invests $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways and bridges in communities across California and puts more dollars toward transit and safety, to be split equally between state and local investments.
“...the" class="auto" target="_blank">class="s1">“...the bill (created) in the State Transportation Fund, including revenues attributable to a $0.12 per gallon increase in the motor vehicle fuel (gasoline) tax imposed by the bill with an inflation adjustment, as provided, 50% percent of a $0.20 per gallon increase in the diesel excise tax, with an inflation adjustment, as provided, a portion of a new transportation improvement fee imposed under the Vehicle License Fee Law with a varying fee between $25 and $175 based on vehicle value,” according to the bill’s text.
It also said it would set aside $200,000,000 of the funds available for the program to fund road maintenance and rehabilitation purposes.
Proposition 6 asks voters to repeal the mandated increases of SB1.
According to the Official Voter Information Guide published by the California Secretary of State’s Office, passage would “eliminate certain road repair and transportation funding, (and) require certain fuel taxes and vehicle fees to be approved by the electorate.”
According to the text of the proposition, it would “repeal the 2017 transportation law’s tax and fee provisions that pay for repairs and improvements to local roads, state highways, and public transportation and require the Legislature to submit any measure enacting specified taxes or fees on gas or diesel fuel, or on the privilege to operate a vehicle on public highways, to the electorate for approval.”
As for the funding, “Reduced annual state transportation tax revenues of $2.9 billion in 2018-19, increasing to $4.9 billion annually by 2020-21. These revenues would primarily have supported state highway maintenance and rehabilitation, local streets and roads, and mass transit,” the Proposition 6 fiscal impact statement reads.
Locally, the proposition has been discussed at length during Crescent City Council and Del Norte County supervisors meetings.
Supervisors Bob Berkowitz and Roger Gitlin have supported the proposition, saying increased fuel and registration costs impact low-earning families in the county.
Supervisor Lori Cowan opposed Prop 6, saying it would eliminate funding for many state and local road projects, including the rerouting of Last Chance Grade.
Supervisors Gerry Hemmingsen and Chris Howard supported Prop 6 but changed their positions upon learning its passage would eliminate certain road funding.
Del Norte Local Transportation Commission Director Tamera Leighton told the board if Prop 6 passes, the state will revert on only funding emergency repairs of state roadways.
“It will stop the funding for Last Chance Grade,” Leighton said. “Projects that are programmed now will be deprogrammed; projects that are really needed in our community, like the intersection of Highway 199 at Elk Valley Crossroad.”
Mayor Blake Inscore expressed frustration that some want to eliminate a funding source such as SB1 but offer no proposals to replace it.
City council member Alex Fallman said John Cox, a candidate for California governor in 2018, has donated $250,000 toward Proposition 6 and is the chair of the Yes on 6 committee. Fallman called the effort a thinly veiled attempt to get votes.
Council members Jason Greenough and Darrin Short felt increased fuel and registration costs impact poor residents the most. Greenough said while roads need repairs, measures need to be taken to curb excessive state spending. Greenough suggested other funding sources, such as using 100 percent of vehicle sales taxes for road repairs.
Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime said the passage of Prop 6 would mean a loss of over $100,000 to the Redwood Coast Transit Authority, which already operates on a thin budget.
At the state
State Sen. Mike McGuire has said Del Norte County is receiving approximately $1.3 million in SB1 money and Crescent City is also slated to receive up to $175,000 to fix crumbling streets.
“There is no way, based off of the revenue that is generated in Del Norte County, that the county could build an inland route of Last Chance Grade by itself,” McGuire said. “The urban areas of southern California subsidize a lot of North Coast highway safety projects. The gas tax dollars are our last chance to fix Last Chance Grade.”
Richard Mullen, deputy district director at Caltrans, said passage of Proposition 6 would hinder any chances for funding of all projects around the state, Last Chance Grade included. He said having additional funding will allow for more options when it comes to the project.
According to Ballotpedia, the proposition has received contributions from GOP House speaker Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, Kevin McCarthy (R) of California and Steve Scalise (R) Louisiana.
“Around $35.95 million had been raised for and against Proposition 6. More than 87 percent of the aggregate total was raised by opponents of the ballot initiative,” according to Ballotpedia. “Yes on Prop 6 and allied committees had raised $4.42 million, including $467,143 from the California Republican Party, $300,000 from Kevin McCarthy’s campaign committee, and $250,000 from John Cox’s campaign committee.”
According to the Official Voter Information Guide, a yes vote will eliminate SB1’s increased fuel costs and vehicle registration fees while reducing funding for highway and road maintenance and transit programs. A no vote means fuel taxes and registration costs will continue, and will be used to pay for road maintenance and repairs and transit programs. The voter guide includes impartial analysis, arguments in favor and against numerous ballot measures, declarations of the candidates, the Voter Bill of Rights and other important information.
Arguments for the proposition are that fuel and registration costs will drop immediately, benefiting those who are already struggling with the high cost of living in California. California Professional Firefighters, CHP, and the American Society of Civil Engineers urge a no vote, saying it eliminates $5 billion in annual funding and jeopardizes the safety of roads and bridges in the state.
Information on SB1 can be found at http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/SB1/ class="Apple-converted-space">
A wealth of information with links and citations for SB1 and Proposition 6 can be found at ballotpedia.org. Arguments for and against the proposition can be found at noprop6.com and voteyesonprop6.com.
The Voter Guide was mailed to voting households in California and is also available online on the California Secretary of State website: www.VoterGuide.sos.ca.gov.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day, Nov. 6.