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California needs the gas tax

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As our world is ravaged by our excessive use of fossil fuels we need our consumption kept in check. The current gas tax that proposition 6 seeks to repeal is the first step in staying accountable and it is a fee that needs to be paid.

The world received a dire warning on the imminent threat posed by climate change, in a report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The worldwide, non-partisan, 92 person panel has no clear agenda besides preventing humans from destroying the environment and in turn destroying ourselves. According to the report, we have twelve years as human beings to reduce our carbon emissions before the consequences are irreversible. Within our lifetime, the overall climate will continue to rise higher than the world has ever experienced, sea-levels will rise and coral reefs will be essentially wiped out.

In commuter heavy Southern California, our reliance on fossil fuels is rapidly contributing to the problem of carbon emissions. While Southern California lacks the infrastructure to make mass public transportation feasible, every single mile driven by a vehicle that uses fossil fuels should be considered. 

Repealing the gas tax would further harm our lack of infrastructure and halt many projects that are currently being funded by the revenue the tax creates. If we are going to rely on vehicles as our primary form of transportation, we need to ensure that the roads we drive on are safe. We also need to disincentive the use of fossil fuels as an energy source. Repealing the tax would only incentivize gas-guzzling vehicles. 

Plastic bags were widely used long after their harmful effects on pollution and ocean ecosystems were commonly known. It was not until stores began charging 10 cents per bag that we scaled back our usage. Stand outside of Target any day of the week and like clockwork you will see people who can clearly spare two dimes, carrying items out under their arms, balancing things on their head, all to avoid the 20 cent surcharge for bags. While ideally these acts would be attributed to a public that cared about the environment, the truth is you did not see people carrying their items out, or bringing reusable bags even nearly as much as you do post-plastic bag tax. 

No matter how emotional the pleas to save the environment, the hard truth is unless there is some immediate consequence society does not take notice. 

Proposition 6 and its supporters seek to repeal the 12 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and 20 cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel. This would eliminate funding which has been dedicated to improving transportation infrastructure across California. The tax currently funds highway infrastructure and road safety and sets aside a portion for mass transit projects aimed at reducing traffic and improving commutes. The “user tax” portion of vehicle registration was always there but it didn’t rise with inflation and infrastructure isn’t cheap. 

When our state was facing unprecedented drought from 2011 to 2014, municipal water districts asked that consumers reduce or eliminate usage of sprinkler systems and lawns altogether, refrain from washing cars at home, and reduce overall household water usage by up to a third in many places. Adding to the urgency, many water departments imposed rate hikes and fees both to discourage overuse and to maintain vital infrastructure. 

The gas tax is not a new strategy. It is designed to make us think twice about our roles as consumers and members of a collective society.

We’re all on the hook for this.

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