Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fix the Problem - Vote Yes on H

Fix the Problem - Vote Yes on H

I have been reading the letters to the editor that have been published in the newspaper lately regarding the proposed half-cent sales tax for Solano County transportation. The letters seem to have a common theme, which in my mind is very realistic if you looked only on the surface of the issue.

The two common themes I hear is 1) we are already paying for the roads through the gas tax and it is not our responsibility and 2) the sales tax will be bad for local business as the increased cost will force people to shop elsewhere or not at all.

Here is the reality. Yes, we are paying into a gas tax currently and we are not receiving any funds in return. This is a fact and I am not happy about it. Why are we not receiving any money for transportation in return? Very simply, all the other counties in the Bay Area, except Napa, have a transportation sales tax. Napa is likely to approve their sales tax in the coming election. These counties are receiving the gas tax money we are currently paying into because they have matching funds that the government is looking to when funding projects. We call this self help. I call it the great incentive system. I wish that this was not the system, but it is. Let's face reality: nothing will ever get fixed in Solano County until we come up with matching funds.

Take a look around at the various counties, such as Contra Costa. They have a great freeway system and a great interchange at 680/24. Guess what? They have had a half-cent transportation sales tax since 1988 and in 2004 they re-approved the tax for another 25 years. The matching funds helped build the interchange and improved and expanded the freeway system.

I do not think that there has been rampant growth in Contra Costa because it has a good freeway system, although it does help the flow of traffic. The only places I have seen gridlock in Contra Costa is at the Benicia Bridge, where the cars have to come into Solano County. Contra Costa is currently paying an 8.25 percent sales tax. People will pay the tax if the infrastructure is good. Does this mean that residents of Contra Costa are coming to Solano to do their shopping? I don't think so. People naturally shop in their own local area.

All this being said, I endorse the sales tax plan because there is a plan to make things better. No plan is ever perfect. This plan has return to source funding, money for safety programs and money to fix the potholes and the interchange. Highway 80 is in horrible disrepair. Let's be productive and fix the problem.

It's always easy to say "no." It takes vision to understand the problem and provide a solution. Vote "yes" on Measure H.

John Nerland

President, Solano Bank

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