The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association (HJTA), which has led California’s “Reject The Gas Tax” ballot initiative, delivered 940,000 signatures to Sacramento Tuesday, far above the required 585,407 valid signatures necessary to qualify the gas tax repeal for the November 2018 ballot.
HJTA has been arguing that the Democrat-controlled California legislature’s “Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017” (SB 1), which raised gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon while also raising vehicle registration fees, is a $52 billion boondoggle.
Gas tax advocates have been silent on the pain inflicted on California middle-income and lower-income working-class families. The average California family of four will pay about $300 more in gas taxes this year, about $400 more in 2019, and another $50 more each year thereafter.
The HJTA signature gatherers have been talking up the 2003 voter rebellion revolt against California Gov. Grey Davis, a Democrat who increased car registration fees by a similar $263 per year. Voters retaliated by recalling the governor and sweeping Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger into office.
According to a cost analysis by the East Bay Times, over the next decade the Road Repair and Accountability Act was expected to generate $24.4 billion from the gasoline tax increase; $7.3 billion from a 20 cent a gallon diesel excise tax increase; $3.5 billion from a 5.75 percent diesel sales tax surcharge; $16.3 billion from vehicle registration fee increases; $200 million from a “zero emission vehicle fee” of $100 per year car starting in 2020; and $706 million in loan repayments to the state’s General Fund.
The latest non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Statewide Survey poll reveals that 61 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Independents, and 39 percent of Democrats favor repealing the gas tax. Given the huge pro-repeal advertising blitz HJTA is planning for the fall, Californians will be motivated to vote their own economic interest. A huge November turnout to dump the gas tax could also cause retaliation against Democrats — and help Republicans defend vulnerable congressional seats.
On a statewide basis, over 80 percent of communities now favor dumping the gas tax, including 67 percent of the Inland Empire; 63 percent of the Central Valley; 58 percent of the Los Angeles Basin; and 58 percent of Orange County/San Diego. The only major support for the regressive tax comes from the San Francisco Bay Area, where 52 percent favor keeping the tax.
HJTA plans to highlight this fall how $750 million a year of the SB-1 gas tax revenue that was supposed to provide funding to repair state and local roads, bridges, and highways is being siphoned off for public transportation projects and operating expenses. Almost half of that cash is being steered toward funding California’s infamous high-speed rail project.
Breitbart News reported on March 9 that the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s new chief program officer, Roy Hill, issued a 114-page “2018 Draft Budget” with a “Base Case” cost to build the 500-mile bullet train that had more than doubled to $77.3 billion, or $155 million per mile.
But Hill also warned that the “High Case” cost estimate for the so-called bullet train could triple to $98.1 billion, or $196 million per mile.