County leaders with the Kern Council of Governments (KCOG) Wednesday voted to allocate additional funds from Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) to local road improvement projects and Kern Transit.
Representatives with KCOG said SB 1, also known as the gas tax, has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for road improvement projects in Kern County and across the state. But that funding would be eliminated if the voters pass Proposition 6 this November. The Road Repair and Accountability Act, as the proposition is known, would fully repeal the gas tax, which was signed by the governor in April 2017 after it passed both houses in the legislature.
SB 1 increased the CA gas tax by 12 cents per gallon. The revenue received from the tax is projected to generate $52 billion for the state over 10 years. Roughly $276 million of the funds will be allocated to the county, while another $87 million will go to the city of Bakersfield. Kern Transit is expected to receive more than $4 million.
County leaders said the revenue already generated has paved the way for what some describe as much needed road improvement projects in the county. But others say the taxpayers are losing out.
“Without that money, our roads would continue to deteriorate,” said Ahron Hakimi, executive director of the Kern Council of Governments.
“We’ve relied on the gas tax,” said Kern County Works Director Craig Pope. “It’s been essential because our costs have gone up 300 percent since the last increase in gas tax back in 1993. We’re putting out projects with this money,” he added
SB 1 has directly funded road improvement projects throughout Kern County, but Pope said funding for these projects could run out if Prop. 6 passes in November.
“SB 1 money would completely stop the moment the elections are done,” he said. “We’d actually have to end up cutting 25 million dollars of the road fund out of the 60 million of our budget. That’s huge.”
But not everyone is in favor of the gas tax. Michael Turnipseed of the Kern Taxpayers Association does not support it.
“The gas tax is not a fair tax,” said Michael Turnipseed. He said that, even though the Association has yet to make a decision on whether it will support or oppose Prop. 6, he does not believe the gas tax has been good for California. “For decades, the legislature — whenever they needed money — robbed the funds for the gas tax, and spend it anywhere they wanted,” he added.
But Pope asserted the tax is crucial to maintaining our public roads.
“If you don’t want to pay the tax, that’s your bit, but if we don’t have it, we’re not going to be able to maintain the roads.”
The proposition needs a simple majority to pass.