The Peace and Freedom Party does not make a recommendation either for or against Proposition 69. We find that there are reasons to vote either way, as well as reasons to leave the ballot blank, on this one.
Proposition 69 was part of a legislative package that included Senate Bill 1. Without SB 1, Proposition 69 would not affect anything. SB 1, which was also known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, enacted an estimated $5.2 billion-a-year increase in transportation-related taxes and fees, including a 12₵ per gallon increase of the gasoline excise tax, a 20₵ per gallon increase of the diesel excise tax, a 4% increase of the diesel sales tax, an annual $25 to $100 Transportation Improvement Fee (TIF), and an annual $100 zero-emission vehicles fee.
Proposition 69 is a State Constitutional amendment that would require that revenue from the diesel sales tax and TIF be dedicated for transportation-related purposes. As of 2018, the state constitution prohibited the legislature from using gasoline excise tax revenue or diesel excise tax revenue for general non-transportation purposes. The amendment would require the diesel sales tax revenue to be deposited into the Public Transportation Account, which was designed to distribute funds for mass transportation and rail systems. Proposition 69 would require the TIF revenue be spent on public streets and highways and public transportation systems.
Proposition 69 would make revenue from SB 1’s tax increases and fee schedules exempt from the state appropriations limit, also known as the Gann Limit. The Gann Limit prohibits the state government and local governments from spending revenue in excess of per-person government spending in fiscal year 1978-1979, with an adjustment allowed for changes in the cost-of-living and population. Rejecting this constitutional amendment would make SB 1’s revenue subject to the Gann Limit.
The Gann limit is part of the package of measures that began with Proposition 13, also known as the Jarvis-Gann initiative, which limits property taxes on people and entities that stay in one place. The biggest beneficiaries have been major corporations which, contrary to an opinion by the US Supreme Court, are not humans and therefore can easily refrain from relocating. The first part of the package, Prop 13, was a tax cut, which limited revenue for local governments to use to fund human needs. The second part, the Gann Limit, hampers the ability of California’s State and local governments to spend the money that it is able to raise. Removal of some tax revenue from the Gann Limit could be viewed as a good reason to vote for this measure. We need the State to be able to raise and spend money for the things that we all need.
The restriction of the use of any tax funds to a single purpose can be viewed as a regressive policy. Why not use the revenue from gas taxes to mitigate the effects of climate change? Or to clean up polluted areas? Or to provide health care for the many people who suffer from asthma caused by the particulates from tires on the freeways? Or to restore habitat destroyed by the building of roads and suburban sprawl? Or any of the many other things that Californians need? Wanting to give the State Legislature leeway to spend tax revenue according to present needs is a reason to vote against this proposition, although most of the money raised by SB 1 is already constitutionally required to be dedicated to transportation purposes.
Proposition 69 is supported by Legislative Democrats, many local government bodies, construction trades unions, some environmental groups, and businesses that rely on transport of goods. It has been said that the Democrats put this on the ballot so that with the promise that all gas tax funds would be used for streets and highways, voters would reject any attempt to repeal SB 1 if and when it appears on a future ballot.
It is true that the State needs all of the revenue it can get, and any repeal of a tax measure can be viewed as an attack. But gas taxes are a regressive tax on working class people who have been pushed out of the urban housing market and have to drive long distances to their jobs. Environmentalists might argue that gas taxes discourage driving, causing people to use the public transportation which may result from this proposition.
A real solution would be comprehensive planning for housing, work places, transportation systems, and recreation to limit the amount of travel people need to do on a daily basis and provide an environmentally friendly way to get around. Funding should come from progressive taxation such a taxes on wealthy people and their corporations and exempting large commercial properties from Proposition 13 tax limits. Proposition 69 provides some unclear choices. Vote either way or not at all on this one, and join us in an effort to fight for what we really need.