Gas tax repeal heading for the november ballot, campaign says gas finder rochester ny


A campaign to roll back California’s new vehicle and gas taxes — and the $52 billion they are expected to generate over the next decade for road repairs and transit upgrades — is likely heading to the November ballot, say organizers who by Tuesday plan to deliver more than enough signatures to qualify.

If the repeal initiative lands on the November ballot, voters can expect a costly and highly visible showdown between repeal supporters and the powerful coalition of labor, transportation and business groups that pushed for the new taxes and fees last year alongside Gov. Jerry Brown. Advocates are alarmed by the prospect of the money — already dedicated to thousands of projects, including the San Jose BART extension — vanishing.

A recent poll suggests the race would be close. A statewide Public Policy Institute of California survey taken in January found that likely voters were split, with 47 percent favoring a repeal of the tax and 48 percent opposed. The poll found that 61 percent of Republican likely voters supported a repeal, compared to 52 percent of independent voters and 39 percent of Democrats.

Bay Area residents polled were keener on the tax than those surveyed anywhere else in California except for the Inland Empire. Just 42 percent of likely voters in the Bay Area favored getting rid of the tax, while 53 percent were opposed to the repeal effort. Another 5 percent were undecided.

“I think the recall effort will be defeated, but it’s going to be expensive and divisive when it shouldn’t be on the ballot to begin with,” said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, who serves on the California Transportation Commission and was a vocal supporter of the tax and fee increases.

A key to defeating the repeal effort will be convincing voters that the law has built-in protections to ensure the money will be spent as intended: to shore up the state’s aging infrastructure, said Michael Quigley, executive director of the construction industry lobbying group, California Alliance for Jobs.

In April 2017, without a vote to spare, California lawmakers managed to pass Sen. Jim Beall’s Senate Bill 1, raising gas and diesel taxes and adding an annual vehicle registration fee to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges and improve public transit. State transportation authorities already have committed billions of dollars from the new pot of money to highway repairs and traffic-easing projects. And in June, voters will consider a constitutional amendment, Proposition 69, to ensure the Legislature can’t raid the fund for non-transportation purposes.

California drivers whose cars are worth less than $5,000 this year began paying a new $25 annual fee for the transportation fund, while those with vehicles valued between $5,000 and $25,000 — about 40 percent of the state’s drivers — pay $50. Drivers of the highest-end luxury cars pay as much as $175 more.

The funding doubled the amount of money available for state and local transportation improvements, said Ryan Chamberlain, the chief deputy director of Caltrans. “If the recall does qualify and pass,” he said, “we anticipate that roughly half of our major construction projects could be deleted, downsized or delayed significantly.”

During an impromptu meeting with Bay Area business leaders in Sacramento on Monday, Brown was asked if he thought the repeal effort could be defeated. “I think we have a very good chance of that, but it’s going to take a lot of money,” he said.

Like other fiscal conservatives, he argues that the state needed to spend its existing dollars more wisely and says that the average family can’t afford the 12-cent-per-gallon tax or higher vehicle registration fees. He also asserts that the governor and others have consistently discounted the power of the repeal campaign — and that they are in denial about the tax revolt underway.