Every morning, I drive over the Briggsmore Avenue Bridge in Modesto, which is currently listed as “structurally deficient,” meaning it’s in serious need of repair. And it’s one of 124 bridges that need immediate attention in Stanislaus County. We have real transportation issues in the Central Valley that weaken our economy. When I talk to local farmers, I hear over and over again that the state of our roads directly hurts their businesses and raises their costs. One farmer told me he even needed to buy a second truck so his almonds don’t fall over in transit.
But the gas tax is not the way to fix these problems, and it illustrates the clear choice between me and Jeff Denham when it comes to our core values. Denham thinks middle class families should shoulder the cost of infrastructure projects through a gas tax. I believe such a tax puts too big a burden on families in our community who are already struggling to pay for rent, health care, and college tuition for their kids.
For too long, families in the Central Valley have gotten the short end of the stick: longer commute times and lower salaries -- and yet, we’re expected to pay more at the pump without receiving the critical investments we need to improve our communities. Incredibly, Jeff Denham wants to raise the federal gas tax even more, meaning that we’ll all be paying steeper prices on top of the 12-cent-per-gallon increase for gasoline and 20-cent-per-gallon increase for diesel that California passed last year.
That’s not right. People here in the Central Valley have had enough of leaders — from both parties —who have looked the other way as we are left behind. It’s time for a Central Valley first approach to infrastructure. We all agree that we need to fix our roads and bridges, especially here in the Valley, but it should be through a thoughtful, cost-effective national plan, not through another tax we can’t afford.
And when Republicans like Jeff Denham say that we need more money to pay for our infrastructure needs, he should be reminded that he just voted to add a trillion dollars to the national deficit and raise taxes on middle class families in our community, 60 percent of whom took the property tax deduction before he got rid of it. If we’re giving tax breaks away to the very wealthy and to large corporations that aren’t even here, we can surely pay for our failing infrastructure without placing the burden on Central Valley’s middle class.
What we need is a real, bold infrastructure bill at the national level. We need to invest in the roads and bridges of the Central Valley, but not by raising the gas tax on the backs of hardworking families. The White House has been talking for a year and a half about an infrastructure plan, and it’s time we have leaders in Congress that move that plan from theory to reality.
We know where we need to start--we need to fix the 124 bridges in Stanislaus County; we need to expand the ACE train so we can alleviate traffic congestion and ever-increasing commute times; and we need to invest in water infrastructure projects that accommodate water storage in the Central Valley, like UC Davis’ groundwater bank and similar successful pilot projects.
Most importantly, we need to work together — Republicans and Democrats alike — to find a better path forward. We have real transportation issues here in the Central Valley. The solution to our crumbling roads and bridges is not taxing our already hurting middle-class families — it’s to send Jeff Denham home, and elect leaders willing to stand up to their own party and who will work across the aisle to fix the problem.