Editorials

Prop 6 will cost us more than a few pennies

Construction crews repair state highway 120 near Yosemite last year after winter storms saturated the ground beneath and caused portions of the road to collapse. Proposition 6 would result in delays in such repairs.
Construction crews repair state highway 120 near Yosemite last year after winter storms saturated the ground beneath and caused portions of the road to collapse. Proposition 6 would result in delays in such repairs. AP

Can’t wait to vote yes on Proposition 6 to roll back higher gas taxes? If you do, then you’re going to need a pair of really sharp scissors.

That’s because you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.

For people living in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, the gas tax does far more good than harm. That’s why we hope Proposition 6 fails.

If this cynical political ploy passes, it’s unlikely the ACE train will ever be pulling into Merced. Forget about that new parkway from Highway 99 to the UC Merced campus. And the matching money your city was counting on to help patch potholes? There won’t be nearly enough to go around.

So go ahead, kill the gas tax. Then enjoy lousier roads, crumbling bridges and dodging through battle traffic to get to the Bay Area.

And God forbid you ever get stuck in a traffic jam like the one in Redding last week. County roads became impassable after residents were ordered to evacuate. Many drivers sat in idling cars watching in their mirrors as far-away flames edged ever closer.

The only reason this proposition is on the ballot is to give anti-tax Republicans a reason to go to the polls. Party bosses are hoping that while they’re there, they’ll vote for a conservative candidate. It’s a classic wedge issue.

If Prop 6 passes, and 2017’s Senate Bill 1 is tossed out, $52 billion in road money gets tossed out with it.

You might recall that Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres was the pivotal yes vote in the state Senate; Adam Gray’s vote was key in the Assembly. Each was vilified in conservative corners across the state – including their own districts. But we were exceptionally proud of their votes.

Both Cannella and Gray did what leaders are supposed to do – the right thing. And yes, they were rewarded with an ACE train extension and road projects.

“The people (that Cannella and Gray) represent are some of the poorest people in California – this is help for them,” said Gov. Jerry Brown at the time. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars coming into these communities, and that’s good.”

The true trophy was a promise to bring the Altamont Corridor Express commuter train down from Manteca to Merced – tying our communities more closely with the Silicon Valley. People living here will be able to get to better-paying jobs on the coast more quickly and without driving. People who can’t afford a house in Palo Alto or Fremont can find a nice place here to raise their kids.

For us, better roads and rail links to the Bay Area are essential. But there are similar dreams all over the state, which is why organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, 29 labor groups, the Building Industry Association, the League of Women Voters, the California Highway Patrolman’s Association and dozens more all urge a “No” vote.

It’s tempting to vote to save a few cents at the pump. But 6,500 broken bridges, bad roads and unfinished transit projects are waiting. If Prop 6 passes, those projects might never get done.

Among them are 20 bridges on I-5 between Merced and Stanislaus counties, a wider Highway 99, some 200 road repairs in Los Banos. Those traffic circles on Fruitland Avenue in Atwater? Gone.

One last thing, voting for Proposition 6 doesn’t mean gas taxes will never go up. Provisions in the cap-and-trade law allow the California Air Resources Board to hike gas taxes by 50 or even 70 cents a gallon if air pollution targets are not met. That’s a real threat now that Donald Trump’s EPA is trying to roll back California’s clean-air measures – rules that helped make the dirtiest air in the nation breathable.

Bad roads, bad air, delayed emergency responses and disappearing commuter trains are costs we can’t afford. Vote no on Proposition 6.

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