RUDY SALAS: Why he voted against the gas tax

RUDY SALAS: Why he voted against the gas tax

(Editor’s Note: This op-ed was authored byAssemblymember Rudy Salas, who represents the 32nd Assembly District, which includes part of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Avenal, Corcoran, Delano, Hanford, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.)

The families I represent drive too far to jobs that pay too little. Imposing an additional gas and car tax on them would disproportionately affect some of the poorest and hardest working families in the state. This weighed heavily on my mind on April 6th as the California Legislature debated Senate Bill 1.

Senate Bill 1 (the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017) a $5.2 billion a year transportation funding package to repair California’s road system passed by a vote of 54 to 26 without my vote.

Specifically, SB 1 will increase taxes/fees this November by:

  • 12-cents per/gallon on top of the current $0.28 gas tax
  • 20-cents per/gallon increase on diesel fuel plus a 4% sales use tax
  • $25 to $175 in a “transportation improvement fee” on top of the vehicle license fees users pay now
  • $100 registration fee for electric cars starting in 2020
  • Gas & Diesel tax will automatically increase every year tied to the Consumer Price Index

I represent the Central Valley, an area of the state that is home to some of the hardest working men and women I know. We like to say we are the heart of California, the breadbasket not only of our great state but to the entire country.

But, despite being a huge part of California’s economy, we in the Valley sometimes feel left behind.

We feel left behind when promises to help with our double-digit unemployment remain without the investments and jobs to help us reach that “Golden California” that we are told is vibrant and thriving in other parts of the state.

We feel left behind when we see headlines that say California’s economy is strong and that we are out of the recession. When, in fact, in the Valley families are still struggling to get back on their feet.

McFarland currently faces a 16.9% unemployment rate and Avenal is at 16%, while the state as a whole is at 5.5% according to the state’s Employment Development Department.

Communities are still struggling to have access to safe, reliable drinking water for their kids and their families.

We want to be part of that “Golden California” but these issues are what families in my communities throughout the Valley face every single day.

That is why I must continue to represent the voices of those who do not have a voice, those who continue to struggle and who live paycheck-to-paycheck. Those who work hard and are trying to achieve the American Dream but continue to face hurdles.

The families I represent drive too far to jobs that pay too little. Families have to drive further to buy groceries, further to take their kids to school and drive even further to get to work. Driving is not a choice but a way of life for us because we do not have the mass public transit options that exist in other parts of the state.

We know that families in the Valley make less and travel more than people in other areas of the state that have higher wages and access to subways, light-rail and mass transit systems.

I truly believe that I stood up for the single mom working two jobs to get her kids through school, the hard-working men and women who are trying to make ends meet to raise their families and for the seniors and the disabled who live on fixed incomes.

Because SB 1 imposes rather than asks Californians how and to what extent we should invest on our roads, I could not in “good conscience” to my heart and to the families I represent, vote for a life-
altering measure that does not at least ask them to weigh-in.

I know sometimes the unpopular thing is the hardest thing to do. But, I believe we must give a voice to those who are voiceless and I must put my faith in our democratic process.

I support a holistic proposal that leaves no community behind, a proposal that corrects the regressive tax structure that hurts struggling families the most, addresses the environmental justice concerns in our most polluted areas of the state and helps ensure that every Californian has access to safe, clean drinking water.

I commend all the work the Governor and my colleagues have done to address the transportation needs of our state. I wholeheartedly believe that we could have done better. Anything worth doing, is worth doing right and that means putting the time and effort to create an infrastructure package that all Californians can be proud of.

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