Diane Dixon for City Council Diane Dixon for City Council Diane Dixon for City Council Diane Dixon for City Council Diane Dixon for City Council

Politics and Common Sense: It's Your Money

The City Council made an interesting and unexpected decision at its last meeting, to decline state road funds derived from a recent gas tax increase that may well be the subject of an initiative referendum to repeal it next year.

The vote was 5-2. I was one of the two who voted for accepting the money. Let me tell you why.

The majority said they did not want to appear to be supporting the tax increase, which they oppose. The majority voted for what they believed to be in the City’s best interest. Now, I oppose the gas tax increase as well, fully support the proposed statewide initiative to repeal it and voted for what I believed to be in the City’s best interest. That’s the politics. That process will play out over the coming months.

The recent City Council vote was in no way a vote on whether to raise the gas tax or an endorsement of the gas tax. It was, rather, a vote on whether to do our basic duty to the citizens of Newport Beach: to protect public safety, property values and the residents’ quality of life by funding street repairs.

We all know traffic is a big issue in Newport Beach. In fact, the biggest. Survey after survey shows traffic as the No. 1 concern among Newport Beach residents and voters. Maintaining and improving our streets and related facilities is in that sense my job one. But it’s getting harder. Measure M transportation funds are declining, as they are based on a sales tax (approved by the voters) that is generating fewer dollars as more commerce moves to the Internet.

The fact is that the gas tax increase is in effect, money collected from Newport Beach taxpayers, and even if the repeal initiative passes, that money will not be refunded to the people – it’s gone. The only way to get that money back in some form to the taxpayers of Newport Beach is for the City to accept the funding derived from it, and apply that to road projects. (In particular, the city staff has recommended it go toward a project to re-pave portions of MacArthur Boulevard and University Drive.)

If we refuse the money, it will not be returned to the taxpayers, instead it will go to road improvements in San Francisco, Los Angeles or other cities in the state. And next year we’ll be rejecting up to $1.8 million. And after that, who knows? We’re talking about real money here. So, I sure don’t like the funding source, but these are tax proceeds that were paid by Newport Beach residents.

And, did you know that more than 80 percent of the City’s capital improvement budget comes from county, state and federal grants that were originally collected as taxes – property tax, sales tax and other fees? A lot of people, myself included, are not happy about some or all of these taxes. But should we decline the 16% of property taxes collected here that the State sends back each year? Or the 1% of sales taxes? Those are huge chunks of the City’s annual revenue, and without them we would be unable to provide even the most basic public safety, road and trash services. That’s the rabbit hole that opens up, however, when you start discriminating against available funding because of its source.

I have no problem with my colleagues who voted in the majority. They are conscientious, intelligent and hard-working public servants, and they’re doing something they feel is important. I agree with them 100% on the gas tax as a political issue. If we were voting up or down on the gas tax itself, my vote is a strong “no.” But I don’t think the repeal effort will succeed or fail based on whether gas tax money is used to resurface a couple streets in Newport Beach.

I believe that governing means doing what’s in the best interest of the people who elected me – the people of Newport Beach. Our residents deserve to have the proceeds of taxes they pay returned to them in the form of improved streets and roadways. After all, our property values depend on it.

Diane B. Dixon
Council Member, Newport Beach City Council
Chair, Finance Committee
District 1

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Diane Dixon
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Newport Beach, CA 92663







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