March 17, 1991
Hon. Pete Wilson, Governor
Sacramento, California 95814
Re: March 13, 1991, S.F. Examiner: "New estimate of state deficit -- $9.5 billion"
Dear Governor Wilson:
What a happy coincidence! The budget deficit can be taken care of simply by diverting gas tax revenues that were earmarked to expand our highway system -- surely a "luxury" that we can do without in these hard times. As environmentalists and transit advocates like yourself well know, transportation dollars go much farther (one rail line has been equated to 8 freeway lanes) toward our basic goal (transporting people and goods, not vehicles), when spent on rail.
Prop 111 allocated 95% of the $15.5 it would collect for roads. Widening roads simply allows more development and sprawl, which will quickly fill up the added capacity with more traffic. This benefits highway construction firms, developers, and the oil companies, but not the drivers who will have to pay for all this highway construction. They will soon find themselves stuck in even more congestion than before, breathing more smog and no better off.
The only way to get rid of congestion, permanently, is to reduce the need and desire to drive. Both would be satisfied by:
(1) making it harder to get and keep a driver's license (as in Europe and Japan): giving no free driving lessons in school, and revoking the licenses of our worst drivers; one-fourth of the drivers on our roads are there illegally (no license, or no insurance), and should not be rewarded with more road space;
(2) taxing auto purchases much more, to significantly reduce the number of cars on the road;
(3) taxing fuel, to reduce the amount that people drive; and
(4) eliminating free parking (which is not really free anyway, but which should be paid for by the user).
The money collected, of course, should go toward expanding public transit, to remove more drivers from the road. Such a system would automatically and humanely reduce traffic, congestion, air pollution, urban sprawl, etc. without the government having to control people's personal lives (e.g. telling them when they can drive). Everyone would make their own decisions. Such a system is already working in many countries around the world, and was also working in the U.S. before we gave in to the cult of the automobile.
I hope that you will balance the budget out of the gas tax, and spare our schools. In the long run, damaging our educational system would be disastrous for California's and the country's future.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.