5/23/2018California Gas Tax Repeal Efforts Heats Up
California poised to vote on ballot measure to repeal $54 billion in taxes on motorists.
Election officials are sampling signatures in the effort to roll back a massive hike in California's tax on gasoline. Earlier this month, supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment repealing the gas tax increase submitted over 940,000 signatures -- well more than the 585,407 required for a place on the November ballot.
Last year, the legislature boosted the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and raised the annual vehicle registration fee to a maximum of $175 per year. The changes were expected to generate $54 billion in revenue over a decade. In response, Republican lawmakers circulated a ballot measure reversing the legislature's move.
"California's taxes on gasoline and car ownership are among the highest in the nation," the proposal explains. "These taxes have been raised without the consent of the people. Therefore, the people hereby amend the constitution to require voter approval of the recent increase in the gas and car tax enacted by Chapter 5 of the statutes of 2017 and any future increases in the gas and car tax."
A simple majority vote would be required to raise taxes in the future. The Public Policy Institute of California earlier this year found public support for the measure was evenly split, with 61 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents in favor of the amendment, but 56 percent of Democrats against the idea.
Supporters of the gas tax hike insist the funds are needed to "fix the roads," but a large percentage of motorist funds are being diverted toward transit projects. Bus projects will receive $3.5 billion. Light rail projects will take another $3 billion.
This year, Los Angeles is getting a $525 million light rail station and bicycle hub. Orange County is getting $365 million for five hydrogen-powered buses and bicycle paths in Tustin. Sacramento is getting $452 million for HOV lanes and light rail. San Mateo is spending $570 million to turn existing freeway lanes into toll roads. Santa Barbara will get $17 million for bicycle lanes.
In June, California voters will consider Proposition 69, which would prohibit the legislature from transferring motorist funds into the general fund. Motorist funds would still be diverted toward non-motoring-related transit projects.
"How insulting can a ballot proposition be?" state Senator John M.W. Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) asked. "Last year, a two-thirds majority of state legislators voted for a gas tax and vehicle fee increase for transportation improvements. And now they are asking you to tell them to only spend the money on that intended purpose?"