Prepare yourselves: The foundation for a countywide transportation tax is being laid, most recently in a report from the Solano Transportation Authority on the state of the county’s roads.
The “2014 Solano County Pothole Report” notes that countywide spending on 3,465 lane miles of roads totals $18 million; twice that level of spending is needed in the next 15 years to maintain our roads in their current overall condition; and $47 million must be spent each year over the next decade and a half to significantly improve roads both in the cities and in rural Solano County.
Daryl Halls, executive director of the Solano Transportation Authority, in discussing the report, did not specifically mention a transportation tax or specific local funding sources to cover these projected costs, but said instead that such discussion could begin this fall.
Let’s start that discussion right here, right now.
Fairfield voters in 2012 approved Measure P, a five-year, 1 percent sales tax to stave off pending budget cuts and to help the city on the road to financial health. It’s projected to bring in no less than $13 million a year until it ends – assuming it ends. Similar, through smaller sale tax measures were approved that year in Vacaville and Rio Vista – the former a one-two punch as an existing tax, set to expire, was also modified and extended. Voters in Vallejo had previously approved a 1 percent sales tax increase.
Voters across the majority of the county approved Solano Community College’s $348 million Measure Q, and just this week in Vacaville, the school board gave the go-ahead to place a $194 million facilities bond on the November ballot.
Finally, voters statewide in 2012 approved Proposition 30’s four-year, 0.25 percent sales tax hike. Proposition 30 also increased taxes for high-wage earners, for seven years.
Fairfield, to use a local example, is committing some Measure P cash to road work. George Hicks, the city’s public works director, pegged the total of Measure P street maintenance spending at $7 million over the five-year life of the tax.
Our City Council can choose to spend more on street maintenance, if there’s a desire to maintain or improve our roads in the short term. Council members have simply to express that desire, and staff will surely make it happen. City councils in Vacaville and Rio Vista could do the same with their voter-approved sales tax boons – again, if they choose to do so. Suisun City’s council could choose to commit some of the expected $1 million in sales tax revenue linked to the new Walmart – once it opens – to repair, maintain or improve local streets.
The Solano Transportation Authority’s sole purpose in being is to provide for the transportation needs of Solano County residents. That includes street maintenance. If this quasi-governmental agency can make the case that voters should increase their taxes in some way to offset road maintenance costs, they should be prepared to do so with vigor – and with a detailed description of how every existing transportation dollar is currently being spent so voters can determine the actual need for themselves.
Bottom line: This is not the time to add yet another local tax.