Effort to repeal Calif. gas tax increase gains momentum

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Updated Jul 11, 2018
Caltrans promotes various projects on social media that are being funded with the state’s new gas tax increase, such as the repaving of State Route 152, to show the public how the money is being spent.Caltrans promotes various projects on social media that are being funded with the state’s new gas tax increase, such as the repaving of State Route 152, to show the public how the money is being spent.

California’s 12-cent gas tax increase and related fee and tax increases to repair roads and bridges have been taking a beating recently.

On June 25, an effort to repeal the increases that took effect in April 2017 qualified for the November 6 ballot after more than 585,000 petition signatures were validated by the secretary of state. Just weeks before, a state senator who strongly backed the increase lost his seat in a recall election – the first recall of a state senator in the state in 23 years, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The repeal effort has attracted national GOP leaders, such as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who have donated thousands of dollars to the cause. Millions of dollars are flowing into groups supporting and defending the recall.

The tax increase is designed to bring in $5.4 billion a year over the next decade for transportation projects, and Caltrans has been spending the revenue on high-profile highway repairs to try to show the public the tax’s value. Gov. Jerry Brown has also defended the tax, and the group Fix Our Roads has formed to try to counteract the momentum for repeal.

“This measure would eliminate over 680,000 good paying jobs and more than $182 billion in economic growth,” says the Fix Our Roads website. The group says the funds by law must go for transportation projects, and the tax revenues are going toward much-needed road repairs and relieving congestion on some of the nation’s busiest highways.

So far, the repeal effort has a majority of Californians’ support, according to a recent poll. The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 51 percent of residents want to abolish the tax increases.

Groups supporting the repeal effort, such as Reform California, say the taxes will cost citizens too much and that the money won’t be spent on roads as promised.

“Working families are getting hosed at the pump with the gas tax hike, and they know it won’t fix our roads as Sacramento politicians always end up diverting the funds to other uses,” said Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California.

Should the tax be repealed, a big question will remain for the $130 billion backlog of road and bridge repair projects the state faces. The California Transportation Commission has designated the revenues for more than $9 billion worth of projects. The repeal would also require voter approval of any future gas-tax increases.