INDIO – The city of Indio stands to lose about $1.3 million if voters in November decide to repeal SB 1, the statewide gas tax, according to Mayor Michael H. Wilson.
The loss of money would jeopardize significant road projects on the docket.
Indio isn’t alone. Cathedral City stands to lose $1 million. The list goes on.
In February 2017, the city of Indio sent a two-page letter in support of SB 1 to Sacrament, saying in part, “In the City of Indio, approximately $6 million per year is needed to properly maintain our city’s 172 miles of streets. We need to fix pot holes and make road improvements for the safety of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Delaying improvements will only make road repairs more expensive in the future. It is also vital that state Highway 111 and Interstate 10 be improved for safety and traffic flow since nearly 1.4 million visitors come to the City of Indio every year for our world-renown festivals and events. This will also help accommodate the city of Indio’s current and future economic development and population growth, which is expected to increase from 100,000 in 2020 to 170,000 in 2035.
The $10.3 million reconstruction project currently underway on Highway 111 is being paid for with a variety of financial resources, including SB 1 funds.
The reconstruction of a two-mile section of Highway 111 between Rubidoux Street to west of Madison Street began in January to widen the roadway to three lanes in each direction; and to replace and upgrade pavement, traffic signals, sidewalks, driveways and access ramps.
The Highway 111 Street Improvement Project in Indio is designed to increase safety for drivers and pedestrians, improve access to local businesses, prepare for future economic development projects, and accommodate future traffic with thousands of people visiting and moving to Indio every year as the largest and fastest growing city in eastern Riverside County.
SB 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, is estimated to raise more than $50 billion for transportation projects in California during the next decade. The receipts will come from the statewide gas tax, which went into effect Nov. 1, 2017 and raised fuel prices by an additional 12 cents a gallon. The money will be split equally between state and local projects.
If SB 1 is repealed, that money will be lost and projects shelved.
“The Legislature has made it clear, without SB1 they refuse to fix and fund the massive backlog of California infrastructure needs or repairs,” Wilson told Uken Report. “The Sacramento response is they don’t have the money in the state budget without SB1. Most of us know that isn’t entirely true.”
In fact, the state has taken earmarked transportation funding in the budget in the past and used it for the inflated wish list and social programs, Wilson said. Sacramento has also taken funds from cities in the past, which prompted the League of California Cities to seek constitutional voter protections to protect the local transportation funding dollars, which the voters passed.
“Since we started receiving SB1 funding across the state, and locally, the public has seen a big uptick in repairs, maintenance, and street and road projects,” Wilson said. “These projects are long past due and desperately needed. These projects also save taxpayers long-term dollars in vehicle repair costs from not having to drive on rundown infrastructure.”
Come November, Wilson said, voters will have to ask themselves, “Do we want maintained streets and roads, and potholes that are fixed, or do we go back to the same deteriorating infrastructure we’ve been used to with no help or end in sight to fix them?
“The city’s position is that we err on the side of safe, repaired, and maintained infrastructure and we fix the long backlog of damaged infrastructure,” Wilson said. “That’s what the residents of Indio have asked the city continuously to do. Without SB1, my fear is that we will see no more money from Sacramento or even an interest to fix the problem from the majority. Until we restore common sense, and a sense to actually do something for the betterment of California residents and taxpayers in a positive way, the Legislature will continue to march California off the cliff.”
SB 1 includes strict accountability provisions to ensure these funds only are spent on transportation projects. 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 effort to repeal the gas tax comes in the form of Proposition 6. 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.