Gas tax repeal initiative gains traction

Salpy Montana puts gas in her car, April 30, 2018. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.
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Residents of California have now collected over 900,000 signatures to put the California Voter Approval for Gas and Vehicle Taxes Initiative on the November ballot.

The initiative would overturn California’s newly enacted gas taxes and prohibit lawmakers from passing future increases without a statewide vote.

The law in contention, Senate Bill 1, concerns vehicle-fee and fuel-tax increases signed into law in April 2017 by Gov. Jerry Brown. It increased the gas tax by $0.12 per gallon and the diesel fuel tax by $0.20 per gallon, while also creating an annual transportation improvement fee and annual zero-emission vehicles fee. It would raise over $52 billion over a decade to pay for aging roads and transit systems.

The deadline for the repeal effort would have been May 21, but now there are enough people on board for it to be considered. The retaliatory initiative required 585,407 valid signatures.

Carl DeMaio, former San Diego City Councilman, is leading the charge to overturn this law with political organization Reform California.

“That outpouring of voter disgust with the car and gas tax hikes should be a message that Sacramento politicians should hear loud and clear,” DeMaio said at an April 27 news conference in San Diego.

Brown, one of the champions of the gas tax, said he “can’t believe the proponents of this ballot measure really want Californians to keep driving on lousy roads and dangerous bridges. Taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair borders on insanity.”

Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, supported the repeal initiative, calling himself a vocal opponent.

“Californians know that much of the money they were already paying in gas taxes, diesel taxes, vehicle license fees, car sales taxes, and on and on and on were being diverted or wasted,” he said. “Nearly a third of the new revenues are already at risk of being diverted, and the $52 billion in new cost to Californians will result in no new roads or lanes. Higher cost, no reform and no reduction in traffic is unconscionable.”

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Antelope Valley, also opposed the current gas tax.

“I am very excited that the voters will be able to overturn the decision that was made in Sacramento,” he said. “The majority party did a complete overreach by passing a $52 billion gas tax when we could repair our roads without that increase. It’s just all about they purposely underfund things like roads and schools to get voters to be willing to tax themselves. But I think this time, the voters have seen through that. And hopefully we get that approved in November so we can more effectively spend road dollars for tax payers.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she did believe money from the tax would be used for transportation projects, but still ultimately opposed the increase.

“With nearly the highest gas taxes in the nation — which have been routinely siphoned away for non-related purposes – I understand why voters would want to repeal the gas tax increase which I opposed,” she said. “However, it has become clear that billions of dollars are being directed to critical transportation and local road projects which will benefit our district. But, ultimately, I support the voters’ right to be heard and to reject Sacramento’s overreach.”

Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, and a candidate for California governor, has proposed his own ballot initiative that would repeal S.B. 1.

DeMaio’s campaign is currently asking for funding and recruiting more small businesses to join.

Reform California is also attempting to recall Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman, an Orange County lawmaker, for his vote on the bill. He will face a recall election in June 2018. Newman was singled out for his narrow margin of victory in the 2016 election, According to Reform California’s site. If he loses, California Republicans may fight and win the supermajority because of his seat.

The signatures must be verified by the Secretary of State’s office for the ballot initiative to pass once they are submitted.

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