‘We can’t afford more delay: support Measure D’

Action to deliver more revenue and ensure it will be wisely and exclusively spent fixing Martinez’ roads is overdue. So in August, the Martinez City Council took action to put a half-cent sales tax measure for roads on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot:  Measure D.  Any further delay is, in fact, wasting taxpayer money and failing to address public safety, putting motorists, pedestrians and cyclists at unnecessary risk.

How big of a problem is it? According the City’s most recent bi-annual street survey, completed in March 2015, the backlog of deferred maintenance for Martinez’ local streets and roads is approaching $37 million. The longer we delay repairs, the more the roads crumble, and the more it will cost to fix them.

So how did we get here?  Most of the revenue for transportation comes from state taxes on gas that have been declining for several reasons. Better fuel efficiency and a growing number of alternative-fueled vehicles are big factors, and the gas tax has not been increased since 1994. So our revenues have been going down while our costs keep going up.  During the Great Recession, our declining local general fund money was focused on maintaining service levels, particularly for public safety, and the backlog of deferred road maintenance kept adding up.

Although road maintenance is primarily state funded, we cannot rely on the State to fix this. For the past several years, the City Council has supported the Governor’s push for a statewide solution, but the Legislature has been unable to agree on one. Seeing no solution from the State, cities all around us are turning to their residents for help – as we did in 2008 for our parks, library and pool (and look how beautifully they turned out!).

Martinez’s poor quality roads are well-documented and not in dispute. But there is a solution that can deliver some of the much-needed revenue with as little impact on taxpayers as possible:  Measure D.  Given that a state 0.25 percent sales tax is expiring this year, passing Measure D would result in a net increase of only 0.25 percent to the Martinez sales tax rate. And it will be 100 percent dedicated to Martinez roads.

We need a solution now. The longer we wait to take action, the higher the cost. We simply cannot afford to let Measure D fail on Nov. 8.

Lara DeLaney
Martinez City Councilmember

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One comment

  1. What delay? Is there a way this could have happened earlier? Because this is the first I heard of a .5% sales tax for roads. I do recall this being brought up as a way to lower our electric bills after a presentation by PG&E at a city council meeting this summer. That plan would require a buy-in from each city in the East Bay to participate and the idea of a .5% sales tax came up then as a way to fund our participation. Our city council just passed a measure to fund the Campbell Theater for an additional three years costing tax payers $126,600 over the length of the contract and now the Mayor wants a sales tax increase to pay for road maintenance that we have already paid for once.

    I’m not voting for this tax for a number of reasons; namely, it’s lazy, unfair and flawed. It’s lazy as with just a little thoughtful consideration it becomes abundantly clear that there was not too much brain power put into this plan. It’s just too easy to throw it on the ballot rather than develop, market and institute a real solution. This half-witted plan also gives the mayor deniability if it doesn’t pass. He can simply say “I tried to make it better but the citizens voted it down”, as if the mismanagement of these roads is the residents fault.

    It’s unfair on several levels, assuming we all make purchases subject to sales tax similarly. The people downtown where the population is the densest and distances to travel, for most tasks, are much less than other areas in Martinez such as south of 4. This is speculation of course but, logical if you consider how close some of the wealthiest neighborhoods are from Contra Costa Boulevard compared to our downtown. This tax is especially, inequitable to business’ who sell large ticket items such as auto dealerships and appliance centers. Finally, it’s excessive to the business owner’s downtown. We should be lowering taxes and creating tax free zones to incentivize new business downtown and help existing businesses thrive. This tax unfairly burdens the Martinez citizens who can afford it least.

    This idea is flawed for the same reasons relying entirely on the gas tax to build, repair and maintain our roads was flawed. We have no control over sales just, like we have no control over the base price of gas. The most basic economic theory “supply and demand” would dictate that, when we increase the cost of goods we simultaneously decrease demand for them. I also realize that ½ cent isn’t tremendous, but any step in the wrong direction is a mistake, however slight.

    In my opinion, if we really need roads then we should have the people who use them, pay for them. Homeowner’s have the greatest amount to benefit from good roads, as infrastructure impacts home values. Additionally, homeowner’s can deduct their property tax from their taxable income. And, while a person renting could deduct their sales tax they generally do not spend enough to itemize (home mortgage being the biggest tax deduction nationwide) thus leaving them to simply pay the tax. Finally, and probably the greatest flaw is that it only partially funds the problem.

    Managing the city finances is a difficult job. It’s going to take thoughtful people to manage our way out of some of our fiscal problems. However, allowing our fiduciary leaders, who just committed us to a $126,600 contractual deficit, is a lot like agreeing to partially funding our infrastructure requirements it’s irresponsible, I vote no.

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