Day of The Dead Marks Start of 12 Cent a Gallon Gas Tax Hike - Scary Prospects Await Elk Grove's Detrick, Hume

October 31, 2017 |  

The day after Halloween - The Day of the Dead or All Saints Day - marks the first phase of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the Road Repair and Accountability Act, the increasingly controversial gasoline sales tax increase go into effect. On November 1, Californians will start paying an additional 12¢ as the sales tax increase will be phased in over stages.  

The sales tax increase is expected to raise about $52 billion over the next decade. The taxes are earmarked for road maintenance and a variety of transportation infrastructure projects.

A portion of the sales taxes proceeds will also be directed to municipalities like Elk Grove. As part of this new funding, Elk Grove has adjusted its capital improvement budgeting for the next several years to help ease the city's current annual $8 million road maintenance shortfall.

While municipalities and other government entities throughout the state are anticipating the increased funds for a host of transit needs, not long after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation a movement to repeal the increase started.  

Currently, there are two signature gathering efforts underway to place a repeal of the tax increase on next year's ballot. One would repeal the tax while the other would repeal the tax and would change the state's constitution that would require voter's approval for any change to gas and car sales taxes.

The repeal of the sales tax increase, which is being pushed by Californian Republicans, anecdotally appears to be popular with motorists across the political spectrum. Republicans hope to use the issue to gain traction with voters going into next year's election.

For the City of Elk Grove and Republican city council members Steve Detrick and Pat Hume, who in particular is up for reelection, this sales tax repeal could be troublesome. Claiming to be fiscal hawks, one would expect both men to support the repeal effort.

Conversely, both are keenly aware of the road maintenance problems Elk Grove faces so the SB 1 funding could be a big band-aid on their public works troubles. The real challenge though for both council members is something the City of Elk Grove is currently exploring - placing a local sales tax increase on next years ballot.

If Detrick and Hume support the gas tax repeal, will they support a hike in sales taxes in Elk Grove? Both men will face a balancing act on whether or not to support the gas tax repeal as fiscal "revenue neutral" hawks, and taking a position in favor of an increase in local sales taxes. 

Detrick and Hume could face hypocrisy charges if they support the gas tax repeal while pushing for higher local sales taxes. While the two council members will have some dicey political decisions to make in the coming months, the beancounters at city hall may need to whip out sharpened pencils.

A repeal SB 1 would kill funding the city has budgeted into its capital improvement plans for several years to come. Road maintenance, which is still facing a shortfall notwithstanding the increased SB 1 funding, would be a significant casualty of the repeal.

Like any controversial issue, if the tax repeal qualifies and the Elk Grove City Council decides to pursue and ¼ or ½  cent sales tax on the ballot, the prospects of success of the respective proposals will depend on voter sentiment. If the repeal qualifies, you can expect a well-funded campaign on both sides of the issue to swamp local TV, radio stations, and social media, particularly in the Central Valley and Inland Empire where the effects of the sales tax will hurt commuters who are driving long distances.

Motorist reaction at the gas pump starting on the Day of the Dead could be the start of an anti-tax sentiment with voters. Given this environment, the entire Elk Grove City Council, not just Detrick and Hume, could be facing some scary political decision in the coming months.      

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1 comment

JD said...

I’ll be honest. I’m not terribly optimistic that the repeal effort will fail. And when the repeal effort does fail it will be just further proof that California is not the progressive state everyone thinks it is.

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