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Gas tax will smooth the road for Estacada

The Estacada City Council has made the correct decision by placing a 3-cent-per-gallon seasonal gas tax on the November ballot. This was a responsible decision, considering a gas tax in the only source of stable funding available for the town's network of streets.

This is not a huge expense. For a vehicle with a 20 gallon tank, we’re talking about 60 cents in taxes. If you need to fill up three times a month, that’s $1.80 a month. That’s less than a large cup of coffee at a convenience store.

This is the type of fuel-tax application that makes sense for Estacada residents.

Street repairs are expensive, and frankly it’s no mystery that some Estacada streets have fallen into disrepair. It’s virtually impossible for cities to pay for street maintenance and repairs by using general fund resources. That’s why many cities rely on alternative funding sources, such as grants and fuel taxes.

Estacada already has utilized the grant process, and certainly will continue to apply for grants in the future. But grants are never a guarantee. They are a limited and competitive pool of dollars. Grants are unreliable as an annual funding source.

A fuel tax, however, will supply annual income collected at the pumps at the five gas stations in Estacada. There would be no competition for that pool of dollars.

And by making the tax seasonal — May through September — the people who visit Estacada as they travel to and from camping, fishing and river excursions would help Estacada pay for its street program.

In that way, Estacada residents would not shoulder the entire burden of street repairs.

To take this one step further, state and federal governments are beginning to explore alternatives to fuel taxes, which no longer produce as much revenue because vehicles are becoming more and more fuel efficient.

In response, Oregon’s state government has recruited 5,000 volunteers who have signed up to pay a usage tax starting in 2015, utilizing a GPS device or odometer reading to track their miles traveled over the course of the year. Participants must also track their gas purchases, and at the end of the year they can apply for a refund of the gas taxes they paid. In this way, the tax would be imposed based on the number of miles traveled.

But such a process would be too difficult and too expensive for most cities to impose, strictly from a standpoint of purchasing and implementing new technology. For cities the size of Estacada, a fuel tax remains the best and most viable option for funding street repairs.

Undoubtedly, there will be those who will describe this effort as an unjustified new tax. Those will be the same people who complain about the condition of streets, and wonder why the city has not filled the potholes.

We encourage Estacada’s residents to vote yes this gas-tax proposal that will appear on the November ballot. We hope Estacada’s residents will understand that this is their town, and that they have a role in moving it forward.

Steve Brown is executive editor of the Estacada News, Sandy Post and Gresham Outlook.



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