Fresno · Politics

GOP, Dems oppose Fresno Co. road tax extension. Top members warn of “roadpocalypse.”

Call it a moment unlike any other: Fresno County’s Republican and Democratic parties find themselves in agreement on something.

Both are opposed to extending Fresno County’s multi-billion-dollar road tax, Measure C.

With the renewal for the half-cent sales tax set to hit the ballot in November, the local GOP and Democratic parties voted to oppose Measure C at their meetings this month.

Measure C, which first passed in 1986 and was renewed for another term in 2006, is up for a 30-year renewal starting that is expected to total $6.8 billion.

But after an arduous process to even place the transportation tax on the ballot – which saw social justice groups argue that the proposal is not equitable enough – Fresno’s two major political parties have found the rare issue where they hold the same stance.

“Because of rising inflation, the dollar is losing its value on a daily basis. At the same time prices for food, gas and other necessities are increasing at one of the fastest rates in modern history,” Fresno GOP chairman Fred Vanderhoof told GV Wire. 

“As a result, most voters are very concerned about financial issues. Bonds and measures that require taxes to be raised are not popular at this time of economic uncertainty.” 

But the official messaging from the party does not represent all Republicans.

Parlier Mayor Alma Beltran, a Republican, understands the need for the tax and sees it as the community supporting itself in the state’s absence.

“That was the purpose of this measure, is to help ourselves because we couldn’t depend on our government to get enough funding to make the changes that we needed,” Beltran said. “So we had to do it ourselves. And I continue to agree with that because otherwise we’re going to not be able to do much, and we can’t go backwards. We need to continue to go forward.” 

For rural cities like Parlier, the Measure C renewal formula will be advantageous compared to the current distribution. 

Beltran said Parlier received $500,000 from the last renewal, but this effort would send an estimated $2.3 million to the city.

“If we can eliminate one extra tax then that would be great for all, and communities that don’t rely on it, that’s probably a great idea. But for communities like Parlier that we do rely on that, it’s not a good thing for Parlier. It’s not a good thing for Huron. It’s not a good thing for Orange Cove,” Beltran said.

“All these communities that don’t have the resources to be able to do that, to be able to fix the things that Clovis might be able to do, Fresno might be able to do. There’s not enough funding for us. Like I mentioned with the amount that we were receiving – $500,000 compared to $2.3 million – that’s a huge difference for Parlier. That’s a big plus for us.”

On the Democratic side, former Fresno County Supervisor and Measure C proponent Henry R. Perea said the local Republican and Democratic parties did not make their decisions based on facts.

“I think in this case they both made an uninformed decision, because they didn’t listen or at least ask to hear both sides of the story,” Perea said. “I don’t know how you make a good decision if you’re not listening to a different perspective on the issue.”

When asked why Democrats should support the Measure C renewal, Perea pointed to the success of Measure C in the past and the fact that it is an effort to engage in long-term planning, which he said is often one of the largest criticisms governments face.

“The first Measure C built the urban core of the freeway. The second Measure C built the rural core of the freeway, and now we have No. 3 moving forward. And what we’re talking now is we’re not really building new freeways as much as we’re now maintaining what we have and coming into the neighborhoods throughout the 15 cities and unincorporated areas of the county and we’re rebuilding neighborhoods,” Perea said.

“We’re repaving streets. We’re putting in new sidewalks. We’re building bike lanes. The things that people want, which is why in the poll that we did we had 80 percent support of the people for two reasons. One is we delivered on what we said we were going to build. And two – now you have the car that’s been around for four or five years – now it’s time to do maintenance on that car. That’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re doing maintenance on our freeway and road system and we’re rebuilding neighborhoods. Exactly what people want.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.