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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 4:35 pm | Fair 62º


Santa Barbara County Supervisors Don’t Support State Recommendation Calling for Increased Gas Taxes

Santa Barbara County supervisors decided not to support a state report recommendation that calls for a tax increase to fund road and bridge maintenance.

The California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment Report points out the deteriorating condition of roadway pavement, bridges, sidewalks and other infrastructure and estimates a $78.3 billion shortfall in funding, Public Works Director Scott McGolpin said.

The $7.8 billion in annual new funding is equivalent to a 54 cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, according to the state report. County supervisors decided not to support the findings of the state report since they don’t want to endorse the need for higher gas taxes.

Santa Barbara County has a deferred maintenance backlog of $257 million and 44 percent of that is for pavement, said Chris Sneddon, deputy director of transportation.

“I don’t support the findings because they basically just call for a tax increase,” Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said.

Supervisor Doreen Farr had concerns about how the increased gas taxes would be distributed if they were approved, since 81 percent of the state’s roads are owned by cities and counties.

“We’re taxing ourselves to pay for the Highway 101 widening which really should be a federal and a state project, that’s who owns the road and they should have the primary concern for making sure traffic flows through that," she said. "We have taken that upon ourselves so it’s not like we’re a self-help county and keeping all that money for ourselves.”

Supervisor Janet Wolf said the county’s legislative platform is to seek sustainable funding so the board should pursue a variety of options. The gas tax has stayed at 18 cents since 1994, she noted.

“I just feel like we can’t complain and then say we’re not going to do anything about it because if we do that, guess where the money’s going to come from — programs we care about,” Wolf said.

Several people spoke against the resolution during public comment, asking supervisors not to support the report’s findings.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors made a funding plan to earmark 18 percent of unallocated growth of general fund revenues for deferred maintenance. Public Works says the need for pavement preservation alone is another $9 million per year, which is unfunded.

“The solution really can’t just be a local solution because the costs are too high,” McGolpin said.

Local agencies have received regional, state and federal funding to build infrastructure over the years but there isn’t the money to adequately maintain it, he added.

Gas taxes are the largest funding source for road maintenance and the growing fuel efficiency of cars is reducing those revenues, according to the state report. The county’s revenues are expected to drop by $2.5 million between 2014-15 and 2015-16, Sneddon said. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook

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