Fix 5 or What? Our Choice.
I seldom question Silas Lyon’s editorials, but this time I do. It has to do with his editorial on a recent Sunday concerning the issue surrounding the upcoming political decision to “Fix 5” (Interstate 5), or as it is now called, SCRIP (Shasta County Regional Improvement Program). The column did not fully explain the full impact of this proposed “fee” on the average citizen of our area. I appreciate the point that we should prepare now for future traffic; that our area will continue to grow; and that I5 will continue, as now, to be the major transportation artery through Redding and Shasta County. Where I differ greatly with the Regional Transportation Agency, headed up by a CALTRANS employee, which is the major government agency behind this proposal, is that this is an “unfair tax”, call it what you want. Technically, this “Fix 5” fee, which is what this project was initially called until it became too politically sensitive, could be called an “impact fee”, but in reality it is a charge, or tax, that will be passed on to every property owner in the County, whether you live in Redding, Anderson, Burney, or the unincorporated areas of the County. We will all be taxed, if you will, even rental apartment dwellers, to help “Fix 5”.
The “unfair aspect” of this tax has a number of arguments: (1) I5 is not used only by Shasta County residents. In fact, depending on which study you read, as much as 65% of both north and southbound I5 traffic comes from outside our county. Just look at the trucks, from Wal-Mart to UPS to JB Hunt that travel from Sacramento and the Bay Area into Oregon and other points north and east; (2) The tax will be imposed on all new homes and new commercial buildings disproportionally. Homes will have one fee, depending on what area they are in, and a commercial building will a have a different fee schedule, depending on the nature of the business. Restaurant property, for example, will be taxed differently than office buildings. This “tax” is not equally fair to all property owners; (3) The tax is not imposed equally on users. A resident that lives in West Redding that works downtown that uses Highway 44 to get to the Mall may not even use I5 during a normal week. Yet a resident that lives in Cottonwood and works in Redding uses I5 daily. Both will be taxed the same. The only tax that is equally imposed on the use of all roads is the gas tax, and this tax is currently in place. And, (4) the gas tax can be used to “Fix 5”. Gas taxes were imposed for various purposes at the state and national level, including the maintenance of the Interstate road system, and for 50 plus years the tax has worked, through good and bad economic times, and it will continue to work, If you drive, you pay. If you use public transportation, it pays and you pay in the cost of the ticket. All users of our transportation systems are treated fairly, whether you like the cost of riding BART or not. We pay enough in gas taxes now, but this is still fairer than the proposed “Fix 5 Tax”. There are already fees in place to pay our fair share of highway maintenance. We do not need more taxes. End of story.
In summary, there are still many, many unanswered questions that need to be asked by our elected officials and Council persons. On April 28, 2009, at 4 PM, at the Redding City Hall Chambers, this tax will be challenged, If you want to be heard to help regulate new and increased “taxes”, here is your chance. See you there.