Recent news stories in the local newspapers, local newsletters and local radio stations, focused on several business groups who took a stand to oppose all sales tax measures in 2020. The ECA did not unify with our friends in the other three organizations because our Board did not believe all sales tax measures are equal in nature. The ECA and its membership and the community, have greatly benefitted from Measure M over the last 16 years. Thousands of local jobs were enabled by the funding from Measure M, and mostly local companies and local workers were able to perform the myriad of projects funded in part, or wholly, by Measure M. Projects that included Highway 101 widening, bridge replacements, street repairs/signalization upgrade/sidewalk, curb and gutter replacement/road drainage improvements/and many other transportation “fixes” in the nine Sonoma County cities as well as in the 1384 miles of unincorporated areas of Sonoma County. While those funds were efficiently utilized, Sonoma County continued to spend more than $11 million on road repair out of their General Fund dollars so they would not totally rely on Measure M sales tax revenues to fund road repairs that were underfunded for decades.
Sometimes it is better to present the facts and let folks decide for themselves. There is so much division and heated, passionate opinions on “to tax or not to tax” these days, let’s just calmly look at how our Sonoma County roads get repaired from a funding perspective.
From the Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works Website:
When the state gas tax was enacted in 1923, it raised enough money to cover both Corrective Maintenance (patching potholes, clearing culverts, etc.) and Pavement Preservation (resurfacing roads). However, due to factors like stagnant funding and more cars using less gallons, the gas tax now only covers a portion of Corrective Maintenance and leaves no funding for Pavement Preservation in Sonoma County.
Last Fiscal Year, the State allocated about $10 Million for Sonoma County’s 1,380 miles of roads. In the late hours of Thursday April 6th, the California Legislature passed SB1, which will begin to address the legacy of underfunded infrastructure in California.
SB1 will more than double the amount of State funding Sonoma County receives for roads, raising our total state revenue to about $23 Million when the bill is fully phased. SB1 will be phased in over a period of a few years, with new funds likely starting late in 2017. We appreciate your support and patience as we work to improve Sonoma County Roads.
Issues and Challenges
Over time, with efficiency standards increasing, the amount of fuel consumed per mile driven is declining. This is good for emissions and the environment, but not good for road funding. As fuel consumption and gas tax revenue go down, the amount of wear and tear on roads remains constant.
Sonoma County faces further challenges. The amount allocated to a municipality for road funding is based on the number of road miles it maintains and the number of vehicles registered in that municipality. Since it has a high number of road miles and a relatively low number of registered vehicles, it receives less funding for maintenance per road mile than other Bay Area counties.
Passed by the voters in November 2004, the Traffic Relief Act for Sonoma County (Measure M) continues to deliver multi-modal transportation improvements throughout the county. The Act provides for a ¼ cent sales tax to be used to maintain local streets, fix potholes, accelerate the widening of Highway 101 for High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, improve local street operations, restore and enhance transit services, support the development of passenger rail service, and build safe bicycle and pedestrian routes. The funds are dedicated towards the specific programs and projects specified in the Expenditure Plan. *
*Excerpt taken from the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Measure M Annual Report
The Federal Highway Trust Fund is a transportation fund that receives money from a federal fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel, as well as other related excise taxes. It currently has two accounts: The Highway Account, which funds road construction, and a smaller ‘Mass Transit Account’ which supports mass transit.
Federal Highway funding is only available for roads that are classified as either Arterial or Major Collector. These are typically the higher-volume, higher-capacity roads. Local and residential roads are not eligible.
Local Discretionary Funds
The Department of Transportation & Public Works is responsible for maintaining about 1,379 miles of roads outside of cities in Sonoma County. It would cost $58 million every year for 10 years to bring these roads to a level where they can be maintained at a lower cost through best management practices. Sonoma County is not alone, it would cost $7 billion every year for 10 years to bring all local roads in California into this condition.
While our funding woes are not unique and must be addressed at a state-wide level, we have taken unprecedented steps to fix our roads. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors dedicates over $11 million each year to Pavement Preservation and committed an additional $13 million in one-time funds in 2015. Sonoma County and San Francisco dedicate the most discretionary General Fund money to Pavement Preservation out of all the Counties in California.
*Whether Measure M is reauthorized by the voters or not, the “other” taxes we pay in fuel excise taxes and sales taxes will continue to be paid by taxpayers.
*If Measure M is not passed and “reappears” in 2022, Sonoma County WILL NOT get matching funds generated by the taxes paid in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 because those funds only go to “self-help” jurisdictions. Bottom line-we would keep paying and get nothing for it if Measure M is not reauthorized in 2020 and goes to voters again in 2022.
*If Measure M is passed, taxpayers will not be paying any new taxes until January 2025.
And-I will leave it right there—
That’s all folks,