11/8/2018Voters Send Mixed Message On Gas Tax Measures
California voters endorse a gas tax hike, while voters in Utah and Missouri reject it. Louisiana and Connecticut reject raids on gas tax funding.
Ballot measures in a number of states asked voters to approve measures related to the gasoline tax on Tuesday. Results varied by location, with Missouri and Utah rejecting tax hikes, while California approved a hike that had already been imposed. Connecticut and Louisiana sought to limit the diversion of motorist funds collected through the levy on fuel.
The hardest fought political campaign on the issue was waged in California, where 55 percent of voters rejected an attempt to lower the gas tax. Democratic lawmakers enacted the 12 cent per gallon hike, making the Golden State's 95.5 cent per gallon in state and federal levies the second highest in the nation, boosting the $5 billion California already collected annually from motorists. Republican anti-tax activists circulated a petition to put a tax repeal on the ballot, but the state attorney general, backed by the state's appellate courts, re-wrote the measure to bury any mention of the gasoline tax on the ballot itself.
"Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes," the new Proposition 6 ballot title stated. "Requires any measure to enact certain vehicle fuel taxes and vehicle fees be submitted to and approved by the electorate."
In Utah, a non-binding advisory question asked voters whether they would endorse a similar levy on drivers, and two out of three voters responded "no."
"To provide additional funding for public education and local roads, should the state increase the state motor and special fuel tax rates by an equivalent of ten cents per gallon?" the measure asked.
The Missouri General Assembly asked state residents to approve boosting the gasoline tax from 17 cents a gallon to 27 cents, with the extra profit generated going to fund speed traps operated by the state police. A majority of 54 percent rejected the plan, which would have raised an extra $411 million per year from motorists, not counting the revenue generated from issuing more traffic tickets. A front group supported by the Missouri State Police Troopers Association and the Missouri Municipal League joined a number of road construction lobbyists in pouring over $7 million into ads promoting the tax.
In Louisiana, 56 percent of voters approved Amendment 4, which eliminated a provision that allowed the use of gasoline tax money to pay for speed traps operated by the state police. Under the old rules, up to twenty percent of the gas tax, or about $120 million per year, could be used to fund speed traps.
Connecticut voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1, a "lockbox" constitutional amendment meant to prevent lawmakers from raiding transportation funds for general expenditures. The measure passed with the support of 88 percent of voters.