Unpopular Gas Tax Could Hurt California Democrats in 2018

Californians reject the new gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases passed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrat-dominated California legislature.

Moreover, according to the director of a new study from UC Berkley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, the backlash against the gas tax could cost Democrats seats in the legislature come election time.

SB 1 passed through both houses of the California legislature in April.

The new UC Berkley study found that even in deep blue California, 58 percent of voters oppose the bill, and39 percent strongly oppose it, according to the Sacramento Bee. The only region of the state not to oppose the bill was the left-heavy Bay Area. Only strongly liberal voters supported the law. All racial and ethnic sub-groups surveyed opposed it, as did every respondent 30 or older. The 18-29 group was evenly divided between favor and opposition. Only 35 percent of voters were for the tax increase.

Poll director Mark DiCamillo predicted that hitting people’s pocketbooks could alarm them and result in political backlash in “competitive” legislative districts, according to the report.

The law starts going into effect on November 1, when drivers will see a 12-cent-per-gallon tax increase included in their gas prices, and 50% of a 20-cent-per-gallon increase in the diesel excise tax. The new law also allows for an inflation adjustment on both gas and diesel. Next January 1, those registering their cars in the state can expect registration fee increases between $25 and $175 dollars. The fee increase is based on vehicle value and will also adjust for inflation.

Zero-emission vehicle owners will not escape the hit from the new law, either. Starting July 1, 2020, zero-emission vehicle models 2020 and later will see a new $100 annual vehicle registration fee. That fee is is also adjustable for inflation.

The California Senate Appropriations Committee estimated in its bill analysis that the law would raise $52.4 billion in transportation revenues over 10 years. The money would be divided up almost equally between local and state purposes.

The only Senate Democrat to vote against the bill was Steve Glazer of Orinda. Following his vote, he said he opposed the tax because his constituents were 2-to-1 against the bill, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The Bee pointed to Fullerton Democrat Sen. Josh Newman’s district as a potential early indicator of how the tax and fee increase could affect legislative races in 2018. Newman’s opponents have launched a recall effort and are using his support for the fee increases as an argument against him. He won his current seat by fewer than 2,500 votes in 2016.

Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) has spearheaded his own effort to put a gas tax repeal on the 2018 ballot.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 


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