Monday, August 19, 2002
IN MY OPINION (Column)
By RAY HAYNES
(The writer represents the 36th Senate District, which includes western Riverside County and northern San Diego County. He is also the Senate Republican whip.)
When government fails, it raises your taxes, and then blames you if you complain. While examples of this type of bureaucratic arrogance abound, one is particularly aggravating, and it is taking place right here in Southern California.
Ask anyone who has been on it, and they will tell you that the 91 freeway is a mess. It is a mess because it is the only major corridor between Orange and Riverside counties, and, as people searched for affordable housing in Riverside County, and found jobs in Orange County, they began the drive. Over the last 10 years, the traffic problem has become significant.
Another major problem in Riverside County is Highway 79, which runs between Temecula and Hemet. With the addition of thousands of houses along that road in the last 10 years, the traffic has become unbearable.
In order to build a road or freeway these days, it takes so much time and money to “plan” the roads and freeways that, once it is built, it is already overcrowded again. Government reacts so slowly, and plans so badly, that the problems it undertakes to solve often become intractable.
That doesn’t stop government from asking for more money, however. Take the Riverside County situation. For some reason, the county has trouble finishing a road. Highway 71 was finished in San Bernardino County years ago, but it stops at the Riverside County line. Orange County built a toll road up to the Riverside County line, but rather than try to solve the traffic problem in Riverside by negotiating with the toll road owners, Riverside County officials chose to complain about them instead. Meanwhile, people were stuck in traffic in Corona.
Now, the county is about to approve a traffic plan that has absolutely no 91 corridor “fix.” They are approving no plans to relieve any of the congestion on Highway 91. If they don’t act now, it will take over 10 years to get all the necessary money, plans, permits and approvals to get a new freeway started, much less built, yet, these county officials take no action.
They do want more taxes, however. The county wants to extend a half-percent sales tax that expires in 2009 (extending a tax is a tax increase, according to the law) for another 30 years. Despite the county’s constantly demonstrated incompetence in dealing with our local roads and freeways, they are asking for a tax increase to pay for new roads in the county. Not one dime of this money goes to the two biggest problems in the county, the 91 corridor and Highway 79.
They spend a piece of the money on a new lane and some off-ramps along the 91 through Corona, but the county spends next to nothing for the planning, development, or construction of a new corridor between Orange and Riverside counties. In fact, the county’s new proposed General Plan virtually ignores the need for a new corridor to Orange County, which will make future planning and construction much more difficult than it should be. Moreover, despite approving 50,000 more new houses along Highway 79, they devote no new money to improving that road.
They do give pork to various cities from the tax increase to buy their support for the tax, and they have threatened developers with retaliation if the developers complain about the county’s failures, but they don’t solve the problem. They just want the new tax.
It is bureaucratic arrogance at its worst. Don’t complain about how bad we do our job, just give us more money. We won’t solve your problems with your money; we’ll spend it where we want.
I expect to hear the bureaucrats and politicians wail about my comments. The fact is that they know the problems, they’ve been asked to solve them, and they have refused to address them. Somebody has to complain. There are reasons I oppose all tax increases. This type of arrogance is one of them. Measure A will result in increased taxes for 30 years, and will direct our money during that time to the county’s priorities.
Their priorities are not the same as those of the people in western Riverside County. If they can’t do this right, it shouldn’t be done at all. The current Measure A does not expire until 2009, there is no reason to rush through a plan that fails to address some of the most critical problems. Maybe they can come back next year with a plan that actually solves our region’s problems instead of ignoring them.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company