Reallocation of bullet train funds could save Californians from more taxes

Last week I had the pleasure of flying to Illinois to see my youngest son graduate from Navy boot camp. It was a wonderful ceremony, and I am so happy I could attend the event and spend time with my son before the Navy shipped him off to San Antonio, where he is attending his “A” school for the next several months.

While tooling around Chicago and the surrounding areas, I took the time to do a little research on things, including the prices on gas. California is known as having one of the highest gas prices in the nation, currently hovering at $2.83 or about 15 percent higher than the national average of $2.40. While I was in Chicago, I noticed that gas was lower than the national average at $2.34 a gallon or 3 percent less. That is quite a difference from what we pay here.

Under the recently passed gas tax, which all our local lawmakers opposed, our prices will go even higher. The new tax will increase gas prices by 12 cents per gallon, bringing the total taxes we pay for gas to 30 cents. Another variable excise tax would be set at 17 cents.

The excise tax on diesel fuel would jump 20 cents per gallon, and the sales tax on diesel would go up four percentage points. Electric cars would pay a $100 annual fee.

The package also creates a new annual vehicle fee ranging from $25 for cars valued at under $5,000 to $175 for cars worth $60,000 or more.

My current annual gas expense will increase by roughly 16 percent, and that is not including vehicle licensing fees which will go up by about 15 percent at best, depending on what the state decides my sport utility vehicle is worth.

According to published reports, about $34 billion of the first $52 billion would go to repairing roads, bridges, highways and culverts, with most of the money split 50-50 between state and local projects.

Another $7 billion over the 10 years will go to mass transit projects such as the bullet train – with an estimated price tag of $98.5 billion – that Gov. Brown seems to be so enamored with. According to a Jan. 13 article that ran in the Los Angeles Times which cited a “confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis,” the project could cost taxpayers as much as 50 percent more than expected.

“The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property,” the article said. “California’s bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun, a confidential federal report warns.”

In the article, the Times reports that the first section of track, which was supposed to be completed this year, won’t happen “until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.”

According to the Times, “Audit reports last year, for example, found that the rail authority lacks consistent management processes, takes on unnecessary contract risks, does not have orderly records and is short on clearly defined responsibility for its top officials.”

The entire thing is just a waste of taxpayer dollars that could be used to repair our crumbling roadways and ease congestion. I have an idea, how about we scrap the whole bullet train idea and instead of imposing another tax on Californians use that money for the greater good and fix our roads. I bet we could get some pretty nice roadways with that $98 billion.

But, it’s only my opinion.

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