Road tax supported
Katherine J. White
September 27, 2006
Filed under News
For once, it almost seems like the Elephant and the Donkey can co-exist.
It appears they can on at least one measure due to appear on the upcoming Nov. 7 election ballot.
Bakersfield Republicans are supporting a tax increase in the form of Measure I, which will be on the November ballot this year. However, many Democrats favor this measure as well.
Measure I, as described by Cheryl Scott, vice president of the Kern Economic Development Corporation, will be a half-cent sales tax, which will go toward transportation projects including improvement of streets, roads and highways.
Scott described her group, Kern Economic Development Corporation, as a “non-partisan group” with members who go “across the board” in terms of political party affiliations.
“Most Republicans are supportive of this measure,” said Mark Abernathy, Republican consultant in Kern County and an elective member of the Republican Party in Kern County. “Of course, this may seem odd because Republicans are for lower taxes most of the time.
However, this particular issue is a good one because if Measure I passes, Kern County will be designated as a ‘self-help county,’ and the state prefers to work with ‘self-help counties.’ They (the state) say, ‘They (the self-help county) put up money, so we (the state) can, too.’”
Abernathy stressed other reasons why Republicans like Measure I.
“With this measure,” Abernathy said, “Republicans know where their money is going. The money is earmarked for roads in Kern County. The third reason is that there’s what’s known as a “sunset provision” with this measure.
The “sunset provision” means that this measure will go for 20 years, and then could be renewed. If not, then the tax would not continue like it does with measures that don’t have the provision.
Scott, whose group concentrates mainly on bringing “new businesses to Kern County and to help develop older ones as well,” says that Kern EDC is “part of a larger committee promoting Measure I.”
Scott says that the measure will improve Bakersfield’s Rosedale Highway and Highway 178 as well as widen many lanes in Bakersfield. Scott says that the county’s investment in road improvement has increased by just 2% since 1992, although Kern County’s population has gone up 16% and miles driven by Kern residents has increased by 25% since then.
The Kern Council of Governments determined that, without the implementation of Measure I, Kern will be at a $2 billion lost for funding both present and future Kern transportation projects.
Measure I would gain Kern County approximately $920 million over 20 years, and it would aid in the dispersal of money for road projects in nine Kern regions including road and bridge upkeep, congestion-relief programs and public transportation programs.
Thirteen percent would go to air quality programs as well as paratransit services for the disabled and the elderly.
Scott says many business organizations support Measure I, as well as many firefighters. For figherfighters, smooth streets and roads are essential for arriving promptly at crisis situations.
She believes Bakersfield College students will support Measure I as well because the measure will improve public transportation, especially Golden Empire Transit, which is a system many students rely upon to get to BC every day.
“G.E.T. will be able to expand its budget by 2 million a year. They’ll expand their services because they will have more operating money; there will be more buses and drivers on the road,” Scott said.
If the measure passes, the 20-year half-cent sales tax will be on items like cars, clothes, but not food purchases and will be countywide. A consumer would pay 50 cents on a $100 purchase, Scott said.
Some voters feel that this suggested half-cent sales tax is not needed; political maneuvers by Congressman Bill Thomas allegedly secured the road funds. However, informed individuals say the funds gained by Thomas cannot be released without federal funds being paired with some of the county’s own funds.
According to the President of the Democratic Women of Kern and BC Communications professor Helen Acosta, Kern County has to gain 20% of the funds needed, or it will not receive any federal funds.
“Currently Kern County doesn’t maintain the (money) reserves necessary in order to meet the 80/20 match for federal grants, such as the highway money Congressman Bill Thomas secured for our county,” Acosta, who is also the adviser for the BC Democrats club, said. “If the half-cent sales tax doesn’t pass, we (Kern County) won’t be able to qualify for most of those highway funds. The half-cent sales tax will help us (Kern County) qualify for those funds as well as other federal grants.”
Norma Jackson, retired legal secretary and member of the Democratic Women of Kern said, “I support Measure I because it will enable us (Kern County) to get money from the state and federal government; we have to have this sales tax so that we will be recognized as a ‘self-help’ county by the federal government. There are potholes all over the place; we need to fix the roads. Rosedale Highway is an absolute zoo out there,” said Jackson.