Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County’s roads are in increasingly bad shape and county supervisors oppose a ballot measure that would subtract millions of dollars a year from the road improvement budget.
At its Oct. 23 meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution opposing Proposition 6, which would repeal the 2017 increases in the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees set forth in Senate Bill 1.
The tax and fee revenue is being used to upgrade and maintain state and local transportation infrastructure.
Public Works Director Tom Mattson said the county’s road maintenance backlog has reached $300 million and even if Prop. 6 is defeated, gas tax revenue will taper because of fuel efficiency and overall vehicle travel reduction.
Showing a graph illustrating the decreasing pavement condition of county roads, Mattson said maintaining the SB 1 gas tax rate is essential to avoiding continued decay.
“We’re right on the exponential edge of failure,” he told supervisors, adding that overall pavement condition has worsened in the last two years and “we’re going down that edge.”
But if the SB 1 stays in place, “We’ll pretty much be able to hold where we’re at – it’s not enough to improve the system but it is enough to hopefully keep the system from getting worse,” he continued.
Mattson said that if Prop. 6 is approved by voters, overall tax revenue for road work will be decreased in the current fiscal year by 16 percent, from $8.8 million to $7.4 million.
In the next fiscal year, the tax revenue will drop from $10.8 million to $4.4 million.
Supervisor Mike Wilson said passage of Prop. 6 would be “disastrous” to Humboldt and other rural counties. “It’s distressing to me to see folks promote Prop. 6, on the local level sometimes, without really offering any viable solution,” he continued.
During Public comment, Kent Sawatzky, who often criticizes taxation, said he agrees with the county’s opposition to Prop. 6. “I like tax that is taxed upon the people that use something and (SB 1) is in that direction,” he continued. “To undo this would have an extreme negative effect on our roads.” Marcella Clem, the executive director of the Humboldt County Association of Governments, said regional projects like the Last Chance Grade realignment and Arcata to Eureka safety corridor projects on U.S. Highway 101 could be indefinitely delayed if gas tax revenue is reduced.