What Prop 6 is repealing in San Diego

HOV lanes on Manchester Ave. and Palomar Airport Road, Viejas Creek and Pine Valley bridges

By September, Atkins and others were saying the amount the tax brought to San Diego is close to $1 billion.
  • By September, Atkins and others were saying the amount the tax brought to San Diego is close to $1 billion.
  • Rebuilding California

In the last few months, city council members, state legislators, unions, and city officials have been schlepping around to community meetings to voice their support for the excise tax of 12 cents per gallon that drivers are paying at the pump. In August, State Sen. Toni Atkins said SB1 has brought $400 million into the region. By September, Atkins and others were saying the amount the tax brought to San Diego is closer to $1 billion.

But it wasn’t that more cash showed up. SANDAG has been keeping track of the numbers and providing them to anyone who asks. And the regional transportation agency – the largest regional recipient of SB 1 money - counts all the promised funding out four or five years. When they added together all the money that’s projected for the next few years – projects are often funded in phases – they got to $1 billion.

But that money has not come to San Diego – though it is promised. And it could well disappear with the gas tax if Prop 6 is passed. SANDAG wasn’t able to easily provide figures for how much money actually arrived in San Diego this year.

The Gas Tax Repeal campaign may be one of few things that local Democrats and Republicans agree on, both those who vote yes and those who vote no. Consumers began paying 12 cents more per gallon in November and will see another 5.6-cent increase this November.

How is the proposition doing with voters? One poll[1] in September found it stumbling, and a second poll[2] three weeks later found it marching toward victory.

But at a Valero gas station on Palomar in Chula Vista, where dozens of cars lined up hours for the chance to buy $1.99 per gallon gas during a Prop 6 event, the sentiment was clearly in favor of the ballot initiative.

“I am living on social security, just my retirement, so the few dollars every week are very important to me,” said Maria Blanco, as she waited. Behind her, a single mom whose work hours have just been reduced waited for the same chance.

“Every dollar matters,” she said. “Especially now when I have a situation with my home going on.”

The line of cars waiting for cheap gas was a visual lesson in what regressive taxation means. A tax is considered regressive when low income families, poor people and people on fixed incomes are carrying as much or more burden than the wealthy. There wasn’t a new car in the lineup and about half the people waiting were seniors.

Allen Curry, an ardent Prop 6 supporter, said the tax doesn’t just hit people at the pump.

“It raises the cost of everything you buy that had to come on trucks from somewhere else,” he says. “Even if you don’t drive at all, it costs you money.”

(The tax on diesel fuel went up 20 cents per gallon in November 2017, and the sales tax went up 5.75 percent.)

Since the state began collecting the excise tax in November 2017, the state has collected approximately $3 billion from Californians, and has allocated all of it, according to a California State Transportation Agency spokeswoman. SANDAG’s fact sheet shows about $970 million coming back to San Diego County. But a review of the state documents suggests that far less came back in the first two rounds of state funding7, though local projects are approved for funding as much as four years down the road.

Neither the state controller nor the newly created California Department of Tax and Fee Administration is keeping count of how much of that came from San Diego – or any of the other 57 counties, their spokesmen said.

The law that created the new tax has a pretty specific formula for how it’s divided up – to a point. [10]

As the money comes in, the first cuts are $100 million to active transportation programs; $400 million for state bridges and culverts; $5 million for a California Workforce Development Board program for pre-apprenticeship training related to the road projects. Another $25 million is designated for local planning grants and $25 million set for freeway service patrol. Finally, the bill sends $5 million to UC and $2 million to CSU for transportation studies and training.

All those payouts - $562 million – come off the top of what’s collected by Sacramento every year. [4]

Half of what’s left is for the state highway system and the other half goes to cities and counties.

The money sent to cities and counties is divided up – one quarter of the money left after those first cuts is for cities and one quarter of it is for the 52 counties in California.

The formula, said to be based on population, the number of registered vehicles and for counties, the miles of county roads, is used to spread that money around the state. In order to receive these funds, cities and counties must maintain their historic commitment to funding street and highway purposes.

Local funding is allocated by statutory formulas, where 50 percent goes to cities based on population and 50 percent goes to counties based on a combination of the number of registered vehicles and the miles of county roads. In order to receive these funds, a city and county must maintain its historic commitment to funding street and highway purposes [8]

Half of the 20 cents diesel fuel tax goes into the existing trade corridor enhancement account.

So where is all that money going? It can be difficult to decipher because the SB 1 funds are almost always co-mingled with other road money and often spread out over years. The money is allocated from different accounts – for example, diesel fuel money that went into a separate fund for trade corridors is mixed into highway projects with money from other accounts. Transportation projects, whether by rail or on highways, are often done with funding spread out over a few years.

For example, a $27.2 million project to add fiber optics for accurate roadway information along the U.S. Mexico border was awarded $1.7 million in SB 1 funds. A $25 million project to widen and improve the bridge over the Sweetwater River on the 805 has received $12.4 million of SB 1 funds.

Some of the money is served straight up. The North County Transit District is getting $2.3 million to work on service improvements toward the goal of increasing ridership. Another chunk of money is going toward increasing daily trips by the Pacific Surfliner from Santa Barbara to San Diego from five times a day to six times a day.

Escondido is getting $12.5 million this year to pay for improvements in a half mile of Citracado Parkway. The city appears to be fully funded this fiscal year.

National City, Encinitas, Imperial Beach and El Cajon are all funded for safe routes to school programs.

Bigger projects, though, are funded over years. SANDAG and Caltrans won an award of $82.5 million for border projects ranging from a redo of the Siempre Viva interchange and the connector from the 125 to the 905, to funding Casa Familiar’s efforts to measure pollutants around San Ysidro and adding air monitors at other border crossings. However, just $10 million was actually paid for this fiscal year. Another $67 million in funding is promised for fiscal year 2019 – 2020 funding that won’t happen if the gas tax is repealed.

Similarly, Caltrans and SANDAG were awarded $10.5 million to double-track the trains between Miramar and Sorrento, and $6 million to work on the Otay Mesa truck route. But only the truck route was funded this year; the rail double-track project is slated for funding in 2019-2020 fiscal year.

SANDAG says it is taking in $513.5 million of the money, including money for joint projects with the North County Transit District and Caltrans. Caltrans independently reports receiving $299.5 million. Cities and the county brought home a total of about $154 million.

SANDAG scored the highest individual awards, topping the list with $319 million for adding high occupancy vehicle lanes from Manchester Ave. in Encinitas to Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad. The project promises one HOV lane in each direction as well as bike paths and sound walls.

The state transportation improvement program fund promised San Diego $119 million from 2018 to 2023. But this year, the region landed $500,000 from this particular fund. The biggest payout, $88 million, is set for 2023.[11]

There are plans and commitments to send plenty of money for projects[12] in the region. Examples include:

Caltrans brought home $53 million for 23 miles of highway improvements between the Viejas Creek bridge and the Pine Valley bridge.

Caltrans brought home $42.3 million for 49 lane miles of repairs and slurry on the 125 between the interchange with the 94 and Mission Gorge Road in Santee.

Another $42 million landed with the county, to slurry seal county roads.

The Metropolitan Transit System was awarded $40 million for improvements to the Trolley Blue Line, including better bus service to and from the Blue Line stations.

The North County Transit and SANDAG landed $40 million to beef up Coaster and Pacific Surfliner service to a goal of 17 trips a day, and to study where to put layover facilities.

The city of San Diego obtained $25.1 million to slurry seal and put asphalt on about 240 miles of roadway.

Del Mar landed the lowest award at a mere $29,976 for sidewalk and drainage improvements.

In May, Los Angeles celebrated scoring more than $700 million of SB 1 money [3] to improve the Metro system in time for the Olympics.

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Wow, Marty Graham's valiant attempt to report on where the outrageously regressive gas tax money is supposed to go is a tour de force of good intentions and reader confusion. How about a pie-chart? Actually, no segmented circle possibly could cover the infinite variety of community governments, agencies and projects that are alleged to get tranches of this windfall sometime in the indefinite future. California taxpayers were roadkill in lawmakers' decision last year to levy 20 cents per gallon and up to $125 more per annual automobile registration.

What is understandable is Graham's description of poor people lined up at a Valero station to fill up with cheap gasoline on the single day of a promotion by organizers of Yes on Prop 6 Repeal the Gas Tax.

This arrogant exercise in political muscle by four-term Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and his obsequious Democrat-majority State Legislature shows how dangerous single-party rule can be, even when the party in power pays regular lip service to the needs of working-class families. I hope voters will fight back and send a message to Sacramento. Vote Yes on Prop 6 to repeal the killer gas tax.

Having the obnoxious, whiny Carl DeMaio pushing the YES vote is enough for Californians to vote NO. He rarely has anything worthwhile to say or advocate.

Even worse than De Maio himself, noxious Trump partisan and Fresno GOP Congressman Devin Nunes was author of the first email sent to promote Prop 6. But forget about DeMaio and Nunes: they are just exploiting a Democratic political gaffe. Ordinary people have to keep their eye on what's best for themselves, and voting Yes on Prop 6 to repeal the gas tax would both benefit tight family budgets and send a don't-tread-on-me rebuke to our careless legislators.

Sorry dwbat but Carl is right on this issue. Yes on Proposition 6. Taxpayers need to send a message to Sacramento...you have plenty of our dollars, just stop wasting them on frivolous programs or boondoggles.

Well, we will agree to disagree. And we cancelled out each other's vote.

Sacramento politicians are addicts, addicted to other people’s money. Sometimes the best way to break the cycle of addiction is to go “cold turkey”. We the people need to rebuke the Sacramento politicians by voting Yes on Proposition 6 and END the growing addiction to other people’s hard earned money.

We got it. You're just repeating yourself now.

Sadly dwbat ...it seems WE need repeat ourselves, since ideology, with you, makes it more important to support a highly regressive tax. A tax that greatly impacts so many lower income people, in a negative way, who are just trying to survive.

For some, the issue bears repeating. Others, perhaps say those who don't own a car, have a skewed perspective.

What a stupid reason to vote against being overtaxed. Your logic for voting NO is the perfect example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I hope that Californians put a little more thought into their choices on election day.

To correct myself, I should have said "What a stupid reason to vote to continue being overtaxed".

Monaghan said it best....this burdensome tax which hits the low income side of the population the hardest is just political folly. We all know it won't end up going for roads and eventually end up in a Pension slush fund. Further with California charging nearly 5x the national average in per mile construction costs the issue is NOT with money but how it is wasted day in and day out. Caltrans is the most regressive agency on earth and they keep under-designing roads to simply stay in business. Who builds State Route 52 at two lanes to be grid lock the day it opens???? The same folks who then build State Route 56 at, you guessed it, 2 lanes to open to grid lock......but they get to spend decades and billions "designing" a solution.

Yes on Prop 6. A simple yet meaningful message to Sacramento not to abuse the taxpayers.

Seems like the doctors of Political Science, swinging the tax cut mallet at the kneecaps of the body politic, fail to get the expected knee jerk response. Californians love driving, and need roads. We pay for what we need and love. Those who say we should drive on the roads built for us by our parents without paying are as respectable as the child who suggests eating the candy bar without paying. Our roads are ruined, we ate the candy bar, now the grown ups must decide how to pay for it. The gas tax hike seems sensible. NO ON PROPOSITION SIX.

It's fine if you're rich and retired. Not so great if you are a working stiff and need your car or truck to get to work or to do your work. Think about it: 20 cents a gallon every time you fill up and $125 more every year to register your car with the State. This is not about "eating the candy bar without paying" nor is it "sensible." The gas tax hurts poor people most of all and was pushed through by Democrat legislators who get a car and a gasoline allowance for their "public service." YES on 6 to Repeal the Gas Tax.

So take public transit, bike or scooter. Or buy an electric car. Move close to where you work, or car pool. Change your lifestyle if you don't want to pay to get the roads fixed.

All the schemes so far to "fix the roads" have been lies, and the money has been diverted. Maybe you folks who walk, bike or carpool should pay more taxes. A bike tax....that's the ticket And a permit to walk on sidewalks.

Dwbat, your seriousness as a commenter is discredited when you suggest working people with life obligations ( aka families, school, second jobs, unemployment appointments) "take public transit, bike or scooter...(or) buy an electric car...or move close to ...work" in lieu of paying an extortionate gas tax. That "scooter" is even included in the list says you are glib and totally unreliable.

Continue your rants. Have a ball. I believe in freedom of speech, even when it's negative in tone. ;-)

Sadly according to this article, lots of the money is being diverted already. That is the problem. There is no need for more money from taxpayers if the politicians stop diverting the money they already take from us.

Not to mention they will raise the taxes and the registration fees every single year. Forget it. I want to know what happened to the money I ALREADY gave them to repave the roads. It STILL hasn't been done! Vote YES on 6. We need accountability, and until we get it, forget it.

The increase is a tiny fraction of the money we spend operating our vehicles. Obviously our roads need basic repairs, and more, any one can see deterioration over the years. If this tax seems unfair, suggest a fair tax, but don't pretend the roads don't need fixing.

This new tax is the problem, along with spending on completely unnecessary programs, waste and boondoggles that politicians come up with. How many times have politicians say the tax is for this and then later it turns out it was spent on something irrelevant or wasted on that. Taxpayers, just like in 1978 and Prop 13, have to rise up and stop Sacramento’s addiction to our money. There is plenty of tax dollars to support our existing roads if they stop the waste.

Thank you for the voice of reason, lizard. It's refreshing.

There is nothing refreshing about increasing taxes being wasted on the boondoggles Sacramento politicians come up with. Stop diverting the generous taxes we already pay for roads. Now THAT would be refreshing. Vote YES on Prop 6.

The problem is, for many, it's not just "a tiny fraction".

Car-ownership addiction is part of the problem. Millions of people need to get OUT of their own cars. Take Uber/Lyft, or the bus/trolley. And GM is coming out with a new electric bike, aimed at city dwellers to use for commuting. One is even foldable.

dwbat: “Car-ownership addiction is part of the problem.” Sure blame the consumer. No, it’s the politicians addicted to our money my friend. It obvious because they now complain that revenue is down due to electric cars. It’s about the money they can divert nothing else. Taxpayers MUST take back control. YES on Prop 6.

No one is pretending that the roads don't need fixing: they do. The question is: how come past transportation taxes did not go to maintain the roads? It's clear those funds were diverted to other purposes. And that's still true: look at the list Marty Graham offers in her story! As for the question: what is a "fair tax?" I know it is NOT one so clearly regressive and harmful to people who struggle to make ends meet.

The truth is this gas tax was cleverly proposed and passed by the Democratic Majority in Sacramento in a non-election year, with some solons getting huge pork favors from the Governor in return for compliance. Success meant Brown felt triumphant about his late-in-life clout, sustained the funding stream for his over-the-top-expensive bullet train, fed his selfish dreams of "legacy" and delivered long-time Labor pals a huge windfall. The timing meant no legislator would suffer politically at home -- only at the hands of unforgiving colleagues if they failed to hew to their respective Party lines. The gas tax needs to be repealed. Vote Yes on Prop 6.

Gas tax is old fashion in the 'GOLDEN AGE OF DEBT' You can't default on a gas tax but you can like Detroit and Greece and the San Diego school district etc default on a bond. Move any debt to a vehicle you can default or declare bankruptcy on.

Yes on 6 for the wording ALONE that requires taxpayers vote on any more gas tax increases.

As we have seen in the past, the gas tax money is largely diverted away from roads and what little funding that is provided to roads is riddled with waste, fraud and abuse.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, released an independent analysis of CalTrans’ budget showing that only 20 percent of the gas tax funds were spent anywhere near roads.

Where do the politicians divert the gas tax money to? The funding has been diverted to cover budget deficits so politicians can continue to spend in other areas like higher salaries and pensions for state workers. For example, bus drivers in the Bay Area are earning six figures annually — with one bus driver earning $227,516 in pay and benefits last year alone!

Of the funds actually spent on infrastructure, the majority of funds get diverted from roads to transit buses, light rail projects, bike lanes (to replace roads), and even park land acquisition.

Obviously, many knees still jerk when a cynical operator like Carl DeMaio swings the tax cut mallet. We're voting about less than a penny a mile, if one gets more than 18 miles per gallon. I realize many are very poor who blog here, but those who are truly poor will enjoy the transit subsidies, and won't pay the tax directly. Those of us who can afford to operate a motor vehicle, can afford this tax. I urge those who are distressed by this tax to seek help, no one in California should be that poor. We care, even Republicans. Sometimes.

With some of the highest gasoline and diesel prices in the nation every penny counts. More so when politicians divert and waste our tax dollars on projects that have NOTHING to do with road repair.

The YES-on-6 whiners care nothing about reasonable responses (like the above). And let's hope Carl finally goes out and gets a real job. Has he ever done an honest day's work in his life?

Ahhhh...just like the left...can’t argue the facts about waste fraud and boondoggles, attack the messenger personally. Right out of the Saul Aliski rules for radicals, rule number 5: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon."

The voters have spoken and at this hour Prop. 6 is going DOWN. This is good news for the State of CA. The whiners did not win.

Saul Alinsky (NOT "Aliski") was an American hero who motivated so many powerless individuals, activists and politicians to organize effectively, and fight for equal rights.

The Anti-gas tax people are easily startled, but they'll soon be back, and in greater numbers.

'a tour de force of good intentions and reader confusion. How about a pie-chart?'

I want that written on my tombstone.

I have solar. I drive an electric car. I don't buy gas. I own my home, not rent. Prop. 6 is an attitude, not an enemy.

I don't have solar, and I no longer drive nor own a car. I never buy gas, but I occasionally GET gas! I've never owned a home, and it doesn't bother me to be a renter.

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