California’s Secretary of State officially placed the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s “Repeal the Gas Tax” initiative on the November statewide ballot Monday.
Howard Jarvis spokesman David Wolfe cheered what he referred to as an opportunity for Californians to vote on the appropriateness of the legislature passing one of the most “regressive” tax increases in California’s history.
Officially titled the “The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017,” Senate Bill 1 raised the tax on gasoline by 12 cents per gallon and 20 cents per gallon for diesel. It also raised vehicle registration fees this year by $25, to $175 (depending on the value of the vehicle), and imposed a $100 registration fee for zero-emission vehicles, which will go into effect in 2020.
The car tax is “regressive,” in that it hurts lower-income families most. The owner who drives 25,000 miles a year in a car valued at $15,000 that gets 27miles to the gallon initially saw his or her monthly taxes increase by just $3.94. But when fully implemented, the monthly tax increase will jump to $17.19 a month, or $206.28 per year.
Gov. Jerry Brown told the San Jose Mercury News that because California has a $67 billion backlog in highway, bridge and road repairs, he will do everything in his power to defeat the gas tax repeal initiative.
Brown, as a termed-out governor, can spend the $15 million in his campaign account to try sway voters to preserve the tax. He has also assembled a coalition of contractors, chambers of commerce, unions, local governments, law enforcement officers, and firefighters to fight the repeal.
In a “taxes are good” campaign, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association is warning that repealing SB 1 could cost California 68,203 jobs and reduce $18.3 billion of annual economic activity and benefits for business and residents.
David Wolfe commented that the Howard Jarvis organization, whose membership contribution is only $15 a year, fully expects opponents to outspend supporters of the gas tax repeal. But the HJTA points to the mid-May USC Dornsife / Los Angeles Times Poll that revealed California’s “likely voters” opposed the gas tax hike by a margin of 51 to 38 percent.
The SB 1 website promises that $5.4 billion of new gas and registration “revenues” will “rebuild California.” But Breitbart News reported that over one third of the California Transportation Commission’s initial $2.7 billion gas tax spending awards are pledged to fund high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, bicycle paths, and light rail projects.
Especially challenging for elected Democrats, who seem to now have ownership of the gas tax, the California Republican Party was able to convince almost voters in Fullerton to recall freshman Democrat State Senator Josh Newman, who voted for the tax hike.
With the simultaneous election of Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang to the State Senate, California Democrats lost their two-thirds “supermajority” to pass tax and fee increases without any Republican votes.