Following public outcry, Newport Beach City Council is holding a special meeting at 5 p.m. today to reconsider their previous decision to deny applying to use funds from what is commonly called the “gas tax” for local road repair projects.
Council voted 5-2 on Aug. 8 against amending the city’s 2017-18 Capital Improvement Program budget to include Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account funding from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.
Council members Diane Dixon and Brad Avery were the two supporting votes. There were no public comments on the item at the time. City staff recommended approval.
Voting yes for the resolution would have increased revenue by an estimated $481,309, which city staff tagged for the MacArthur Boulevard and University Drive pavement rehabilitation project.
The recently passed Senate Bill 1 will – starting Nov. 1 – increase the gas taxes 12 cents per gallon and diesel taxes 20 cents per gallon. It will also add some vehicle fees and electric vehicle fees. The funds generated from the higher taxes and new fees are meant to improve road conditions across California.
The “local component,” as City Manager Dave Kiff explained it on Aug. 8, comprises of the city telling the state which projects would be eligible for and compete for Senate Bill 1 funds.
At the time, staff recommended approval of the resolution because “we don’t lose anything by designating the projects,” Kiff explained. If SB1 is eventually overturned the listed projects simply go back to being funded as originally planned.
Although staff and council members emphasized that a yes vote did not equate in any way to an endorsement of SB1, the majority of council members voted against the item because they did not want to appear supportive of the tax.
Mayor Kevin Muldoon said he was “tempted” to vote yes, but ultimately voted against it.
“I don’t want to send a message that the way the government is running in Sacramento is acceptable, it’s not acceptable,” Muldoon said.
Other council members agreed.
“I think it’s important that we send a message to Sacramento regarding this piece of legislation,” Councilman Jeff Herdman said.
Councilman Will O’Neill said he voted against the item was because “frankly, I believe the state legislature is using submissions like this as PR in an effort to counter any referendum we have in the coming year.”
Although Councilman Scott Peotter ended up voting no, he moved approval of the item, but said that it was an “evil” and “regressive” tax. Dixon seconded the motion.
Several council members noted that they understood why some were voting yes and did not believe that it equated to an endorsement of the tax.
Essentially, “we’re being taxed and it’s our opportunity to bring the funds back to the taxpayers,” Muldoon explained.
After public objection to the vote, a council member who voted on the prevailing side requested that the council reconsider the item. The current staff report does not list which council member made the request.
Staff is again recommending approval of the resolution.
The special City Council meeting is open to the public and is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. in council chambers.
View the current agenda here: newportbeachca.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/39186/72