TAMC official makes pitch for SB 1 gas tax benefits

Jim Johnson, reporter for the Monterey Herald, wrote the following story for today’s edition of the newspaper.

SALINAS — With vote by mail ballots in the mail and Nov. 6 approaching, Transportation Agency for Monterey County Executive Director Debbie Hale made her pitch for keeping the state’s SB 1 gas tax to a receptive Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Noting that the statewide repeal measure Prop. 6 is taking aim at repealing the gas tax, Hale laid out the potential impact for the county if the funding source is lost as part of a presentation with county Resource Management Agency official Neville Pereira.

In addition to losing an estimated $236 million in matching funds over time for regional transportation projects, Hale noted the county could lose about half of the projected $15 million it can expect to receive in future fiscal years for road maintenance from the combination of the Measure X sales tax, which puts the county in position to qualify for matching funds, and the SB 1 gas tax.

Hale noted that SB 1 essentially “doubles” Measure X funding for local jurisdictions, including the county. She said many planned road maintenance projects would be delayed if the gas tax funding is repealed.

“Without state matching funds, money is not just going to fall from the sky,” Hale said. “It took a long time to build consensus on SB 1.”

Pereira said the county’s own local roads portion of both funding sources goes into the Road Fund where some 20 road maintenance and improvement projects are designated for that funding in the current 2018-19 fiscal year as part of the county’s five-year pavement management plan through 2023,. He said some would be affected by a state gas tax repeal.

Among the projects set for construction this fiscal year include Blanco Road from Reservation Road to Davis Road, San Juan Road from Salinas city limits to Rogge Road, Hatton Road from Harkins Road to Spreckels Boulevard, Jolon Road bridge rail replacement, and Las Lomas drainage. The county’s seal coat program and Gonzales River bridge replacement project are both in the midst of engineering and construction is expected to begin at some point this fiscal year. Most of the rest of the projects designated for funding this fiscal year are in the engineering phase.

Hale noted that the state hadn’t raised the gas tax since 1994 before SB 1 was passed, and funding had stagnated, resulting in a multi-billion road maintenance backlog.

“It was crazy to think we could fund a 21st century transportation system with such dated funding,” she said.

Alejo praised Hale’s work on “public education” with regard to SB 1 and local transportation funding impacts, and the board agreed to direct the county Resource Management Agency to contribute to the public outreach effort.

Both the Board of Supervisors and TAMC board have voted to formally oppose Prop. 6.


Jim Johnson covers Monterey County government and water issues for the Monterey Herald.