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Another View: Get to know Prop. 69: Should diesel tax and registration fees be used only for transportation purposes?

By: Randi Swisley
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Get to know Prop. 69: Should diesel tax and registration fees be used only for transportation purposes?

Ballot propositions deserve special attention in any election. Politicians come and go. Legislation and laws govern the way we live for much longer.

Propositions are proposals for laws presented to the public to vote on. Propositions can make new laws, change existing laws, enact government spending policies and change the constitution. They can be placed on the ballot by state lawmakers (the California Legislature) or by people who collect enough voter signatures.

Several years ago, legislation was enacted requiring all citizen-initiated ballot measures to appear only on the General Election ballot in November. Our upcoming Primary Election ballot in June has five ballot measures, all proposed by the legislature and all requiring more than 50 percent yes votes to be enacted into law.

In the April 28 edition of the Auburn Journal, Proposition 68 was summarized in my column. Included here is a summary of Prop. 69.

Proposition 69 asks voters:

Should revenues generated by a 2017 transportation funding law be used only for transportation purposes and be exempt from California’s spending limits?

The situation:

This proposition was part of a legislative package, which included SB 1, signed into law in April 2017.

SB 1 increased state taxes on vehicle fuel, dedicating this revenue to transportation purposes. SB 1 also created a new vehicle registration fee, based on a vehicle’s value. The State Constitution currently requires all fuel excise tax be spent on transportation purposes. The requirement does not apply to sales tax on diesel fuel nor the newly created registration fees.

Our State Constitution now embeds many changes based on previously approved legislation, making it necessary to further modify the Constitution to do things that would otherwise be taken care of with a simple law. In this case, including this law in the Constitution would ensure the taxes and fees paid for gas and registration are spent on transportation.

The proposal:

Prop. 69 would amend the State Constitution to require that SB1 diesel sales tax and registration fees be used solely for transportation purposes. It would prohibit borrowing from the Public Transportation Account for non-transportation purposes or to repay state transportation bonds without voter approval. It also exempts Prop. 69 projects from spending limits called Gann limits established in 1969.

Fiscal effects:

There is no fiscal impact. SB1 generates about $5.2 billion each year. There will be no change to SB1 if Prop. 69 passes or fails.

A YES vote means:

Support for an amendment to the State Constitution to:
Require that revenue from Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), be used only for transportation-related purposes; and exempt revenue generated by SB 1’s tax increases and fee schedules from the state appropriations  limit.

A NO vote means:

Support for no change to current law

Supporters say:

Prop. 69 won’t raise taxes and ensures recently enacted transportation revenues paid at the pump and during vehicle registration will be used only for road and transportation improvement projects. Money collected for transportation purposes in the past has been borrowed to pay for things other than transportation and Prop. 69 will prevent that.

Opponents say:

Prop. 69 fails to protect all transportation dollars such as the $1 billion annually collected in vehicle weight fees. Also, the legislature will lose flexibility to spend funds on other things needed when they are restricted to transportation.

Supporting Money:

$1,218,140 was received from business, labor, local governments, and transportation advocates including League of Cities, California Alliance for Jobs, Members’ Voice of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3.

Opposing money: None as of May 6

Understanding who is really behind legislation is helpful in deciding how to vote on an issue. The real sponsors and opponents of propositions can be determined by finding the trail of money donated for and against campaigns. Three websites documenting campaign contributions are: Ballotpedia.org, votersedge.org, and sos.ca.gov/campaign-lobbying.

Impartial answers to questions about propositions are not always easy to find. If you have questions, the League of Women Voters explains ballot measures in an impartial, interactive way to voters in Placer County. Many service groups, clubs, and HOAs take advantage of this free service every election cycle. You can contact your local League to schedule a presentation at lwvplacercounty.org or at 916-208-8691.
It is important that our community and our state represent what the majority of us truly believe in. Further, it is important that we each protect our vote as a private right and caste that vote according to how we truly believe. That is what builds strong community.

Randi Swisley currently serves on Auburn’s Transient-Homeless Task force and Auburn Oversight Committee. She is past president of the Placer County League of Women Voters, past Chairman of the WAC Municipal Advisory Council, past executive committee member of the Placer County Juvenile Justice Commission, and served on the Auburn Technology Commission. Swisley is a happy member of Auburn’s Sugar Plump Fairies promoting local art and music.