Letter to Editor: Keep the "Gas Tax"

In the Corsair’s most recent edition, the breakdown of Proposition 6 seemed to solely focus on the “gas tax” aspect. For those that don’t know already, Proposition 6 seeks to repeal Senate Bill 1, which raised gasoline excise taxes and vehicle registration fees for projects dedicated to fixing the sorry state of California’s transportation infrastructure, which will in turn benefit SMC students. Common arguments against SB1 try to animate public fears by focusing on wasteful government spending, high taxes, and disdain for public transit. Even California state Senator Josh Newman (D-29) was recalled as a result of voting in favor of the bill. This tax hysteria must end.

All of these arguments in favor of Prop 6 are easily dismissed with a closer look.

The common point about how SB1 demonstrates California legislators repeatedly misappropriating gas and vehicle taxes for the General Fund rather than transportation-related purposes, is wholly false since the combination of Article XIX of the California Constitution and the recently-passed Proposition 69 explicitly state that all revenue raised from these sources must go towards transportation-related purposes. Additionally, SB1 created a new Office of the Inspector General charged with overseeing projects and programs to ensure all SB 1 funds are spent as promised, to reduce bureaucracy, waste and red tape, and to report annually to the state Legislature (United Contractors).

The next point about how SB1 contributes to the already-high cost-of-living in California overlooks the fact that poor road maintenance increase costly vehicle repairs. For someone who drives 15,000 miles a year the gas tax would cost about $6/month. For the lower-income share of the population the annual vehicle registration fee increase will likely be about $25. By comparison, the average cost of repairs for vehicles damaged by poorly maintained streets and highways is $739 a year (ACT-LA).

Lastly, Yes on Prop 6 supporters spout the oft-line about how a portion of SB1 funds go towards public transportation projects in addition to road maintenance and construction. This point goes to show how the facts are ignored when considering real solutions to road congestion, and instead negative perceptions of mass transit supposedly bringing crime and undesirables to other areas take the forefront. In reality, transit reduces congestion on roadways by taking private vehicles off the road. The Urban Mobility Report finds that transit reduces congestion-related delays an average of 31 million hours in each of the country’s 14 largest urban areas. In 2005, public transportation reduced congestion-related combustion of gasoline by 340 million gallon (Transportation Cooperative Research Program).

In conclusion, if Proposition 6 passes, SMC will feel it. Recent data suggests that average SMC student ridership of the Expo Line has increased by about 33% since Spring 2017 (CEUS). About half of SMC students use some form of public transportation to commute, most of which will most likely be improved by SB1 (Office of Institutional Research). Voting no on Proposition 6 is vital for the many thousands of students who take public transit to SMC everyday.


Hunter Baoengstrum

Commissioner of Sustainability

Associated Students of Santa Monica College