CATHEDRAL CITY — Cathedral City stands to lose an estimated $1 million if voters decide in November to repeal Senate Bill 1, better known as the gas tax.
The statewide gas tax that went into effect Nov. 1, 2017 raised fuel prices by 12 cents a gallon to pay for additional road and street repairs throughout California including streets in Cathedral City.
City Manager Charles McClendon said the new tax revenue would help make residents’ commute smoother and thereby lower their auto maintenance repairs related to pot holes and substandard streets. For less than the price of a gum ball out of a toy machine, the city could generate needed revenue for important improvement projects that make getting around town better for everyone, he said.
A repeal of the legislation was the farthest thing from most people’s minds.
Now, one year later, the stage is set for exactly that – repeal.
Californians will vote in November on a ballot proposition that would repeal the new gas tax and vehicle fees. The measure earned a spot on the statewide ballot in June after garnering more than the 585,407 signatures of registered voters required, according to a random sample count announced by state officials.
“I, along with many other elected officials, police, highway patrolmen and firefighters oppose this repeal,” Cathedral City Councilmember John Aguilar told Uken Report. “Many business organizations as well oppose it. Statewide, almost 80 percent of our roads, bridges, overpasses and streets are woefully in need of major repair — in some cases, structurally. Locally, repeal of this tool will result in the loss of over $1 million in additional revenue for repair of our roads and bridges. The city’s road improvement program would suffer immensely if this is repealed.”
SB 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, was passed last April and over the next decade is estimated to raise more than $50 billion for transportation projects in California. The money will be split equally between state and local projects.
Locally, SB 1 is estimated to bring more than $1 million a year to Cathedral City once full implementation is reached, according to McClendon. Prior to the passage of SB 1, Cathedral City had a backlog of unmet maintenance and needed road repairs. Now, as approved by Council on Sept. 13, 2017, and using the SB 1 funding, the city is poised to begin work on the following projects:
- Date Palm Drive and Dinah Shore Drive intersection reconstruction: The estimated cost of this project is $800,000 and construction has begun. Work is already underway and is estimated to be complete in September.
- Avenida Ximino Neighborhood Street Reconstruction: The estimated cost of this project is $650,000 and construction is tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2019 using SB1 revenues provided the repeal is unsuccessful.
- Landau Boulevard and McCallum Way intersection traffic signal construction: The estimated cost of this new traffic signal is $400,000. It is scheduled for installation in the summer of 2020.
- Whispering Palms neighborhood street pavement rehabilitation: The estimated cost of this neighborhood street repaving project is $1,400,000. It is also scheduled for the summer of 2020.
Projects planned for future years using SB1 funding include the following:
- Century Park Neighborhood street pavement rehabilitation: Estimated Cost: $1.4 million
• La Pasada Neighborhood street pavement rehabilitation: Estimated Cost: $650,000
• Landau Public alleyway reconstruction: Estimated Cost: $400,000
“Other projects in the city, such as the Cove slurry seal projects, the Date Palm and Cathedral Canyon bridge projects and others will also be completed using Assessment District funds, Measure A funds, grants and other dedicated revenue sources,” McClendon said. “Absent the SB1 funding, however, none of the projects identified above, is scheduled to be completed as current funding sources are inadequate to meet our needs for street and road maintenance.”
It is “critical” for the repeal to be defeated, Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pettis told Uken Report, adding that this is the money that will be used to continue to fix the city’s roads.
“It is already paying for the work on Dinah Shore Drive and Date Palm,” Pettis said. “Without this source of funds we would not be able to repair and maintain the road system in the city. Over the next 20 years this will provide Cathedral City with millions of dollars in road work.”
Councilmember Mark Carnevale wrote a stand-alone opinion piece that published on Thursday, Aug. 2. You may read it here.
Raymond Gregory, who is seeking a seat on the City Council representing District 5, also opposes the repeal.
“I hate more taxes, and I hate bad roads,” Gregory told Uken Report. “But it’s going to take funding to make needed repairs and improvements, so we are going to have to live with some type of increase. Until we come up with a better solution, the existing tax seems the best bet. The focus needs to remain on the close management of whatever funding is generated, locally and statewide, to squeeze the maximum amount of good out of what is collected and direct funding to the projects needed most.”
SB 1 includes strict accountability provisions to ensure these funds only are spent on transportation projects, McClendon said. SB 1 also mandates the Office of Inspector General to oversee spending and make sure funding is spent efficiently and appropriately. In fact, voters will be asked to vote on a statewide ballot proposition in 2018 to protect the SB1 revenues in the state constitution so Sacramento politicians can’t divert the SB 1 funding for other purposes.
“The revenue provided by SB1 will make a big difference in the maintenance of our streets and roads right here in Cathedral City, which makes it a little easier to smile when paying,” McClendon said.