Repeal of California Gas Tax Hike May Reach November Ballot

Published June 11, 2018

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is reviewing signatures collected for a November 2018 ballot question asking voters to repeal a gas tax hike implemented less than a year ago.

The state’s excise tax on gasoline increased to 40 cents per gallon on November 1, a 12 cent—or approximately 43 percent—hike. The tax is scheduled to increase by an additional 7.5 cents per gallon in July 2019. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1 into law on April 28, 2017.

In November 2017, Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, a nonprofit political organization “formed and funded by taxpayers who are fed up with the politicians and special interests,” began collecting signatures from registered California voters for a ballot question to repeal the gas tax hike. Reform California submitted 963,905 signatures to county boards of election, and Padilla’s office has begun reviewing the signatures for validity. The question needs 587,407 valid signatures to be approved and placed on the ballot.

‘This Is a Regressive Tax’

Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, a nonprofit political organization “formed and funded by taxpayers who are fed up with the politicians and special interests,” says the state’s high gas tax affects low- and middle-income individuals the most.

“This is a regressive tax,” DeMaio said. “The typical family of four will pay $779 more a year in gas and car taxes as a result of this measure. That’s real money. That’s a Christmas for that family. That’s one of their kids needing braces.”

Life in Cost-a-Fornia

Kerry Jackson, a fellow at the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute, says the gas tax hike is particularly rough on working people.

“For the top 10 percent of income earners, they’re not going to feel this,” Jackson said. “This is a very big regressive tax. It’s going to affect a bigger portion of people on the lower end. They often drive a long distance to get to work, because the housing is so expensive here. They have to go out in the desert somewhere, way out beyond suburbia, and what they’re paying for fuel is astronomical. Now they’re paying even more.”

‘Politicians Steal the Money’

DeMaio says the state’s elected officials are diverting money intended for road repairs in order to fund pet projects.

“The politicians steal the money,” DeMaio said. “They divert the money from road repairs to the general funds, to pay for pensions and salaries of government employees. They’ve also stolen the money for their social-engineering experiments.”

Jackson says one way lawmakers can help fund road improvements is to stop using gas tax revenue as a slush fund.

“One thing is dedicating the entire revenue stream of fuel tax to the roads.” Jackson said. “So much is apparently going to other things.

“This state has a huge annual budget,” Jackson said. “You can’t tell me that you can’t find other places to cut funds, that there isn’t a great deal of extraneous government happening out there that could help fund some of these other things.”

Mad As Hell

DeMaio says the public is incensed about the gas tax.

“There is a rebellion out here,” DeMaio said. “It exists for two reasons. One, the high cost of living associated with the gas tax; two, the outright fraud that’s occurring, where they’re promising they’ll deal with [traffic] congestion. They’re promising they’ll deal with roads, but it’s an outright lie. The money has been diverted, and the policies are doing exactly the opposite.”