Supervisors Defend Statewide Gas Tax

The 2017 tax estimated to bring California $52 billion for transportation needs over the next decade may be challenged by voters in November.

Fed up with the federal government’s inaction to repair and modernize the country’s crumbling transportation infrastructure in 2017, California passed a gas tax increase to come up with the necessary funds. 

Just one year later, state leaders are scrambling to defend the tax against a repeal measure on the November ballot. In a notably quick vote compared to a decision to endorse a a repeal of rent control-stifling Costa-Hawkins, San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution making their opposition to Proposition 6 known.

California Republicans — clinging to the repeal to motivate the state’s conservative voters this November — put forward the measure that would require any new fuel taxes to be approved directly by voters. This would include the 2017 gas tax that is expected to generate $52 billion for transportation infrastructure for the next decade, ceasing to collect revenue.

“By stripping millions of dollars in funding from local and regional transportation planning grants and local streets maintenance, Prop. 6 would result in the cancellation or delay of critical infrastructure projects aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of California’s transportation system,” the resolution states.

The tax took effect last November, when the base tax on gas increased by 12 cents per gallon and 20 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. Car registrations at the Department of Motor Vehicles also increased, depending on the type of car, and in July 2020, zero-emission vehicles will have a $100 “road improvement fee.”

Most of the money goes towards fixing and maintaining state highways, city and county streets as part of a 2027 goal to have at least 98 percent of state highways in good or fair condition. Revenue also goes toward local projects to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, public transportation upgrades and stormwater capture.

Before the repeal campaign, California Republicans cast state Sen. Josh Newman’s as the deciding vote that approved the taxes to launch a recall. Voters in the 29th District decided not to keep the representative in June, costing the Democratic’s their supermajority in the Legislature.

Most other groups are opposed to the repeal, including the California Chamber of Commerce. But a poll in Stanford poll in May found that 42 percent voters supported the repeal while 22 percent opposed it.

In a state where there are super-commuters up and down the coast sprawling out to afford housing, higher gas costs may be a tougher sell than other taxes.

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