Second Gas Tax Hike Repeal Campaign Revs Up In California

Published October 20, 2017

After an earlier ballot campaign to repeal a big gas-tax hike in California stalled, another group of taxpayers is about to begin collecting signatures for a similar ballot question.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1 into law on April 28, increasing the state’s excise tax on gasoline to 40 cents per gallon—a hike of 12 cents, or approximately 43 percent—starting November 1, 2017.

In May, State Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) filed paperwork to begin collecting signatures to ask voters in 2018 to overturn the gas tax, but the effort was delayed by a lawsuit, filed by Allen, challenging California Secretary of State Xavier Becerra’s recommended ballot language for the question.

On November 20, a second ballot initiative, led by former San Diego City Council member Carl DeMaio, will begin collecting signatures from registered California voters. To get the repeal question on the November 2018 ballot, DeMaio’s campaign will have to collect 587,407 valid signatures.

High State Taxes

Californians are already paying far too much for roads, DeMaio says.

“Proponents of the gas tax say that we have to pay for the roads, but we are already paying for the roads,” DeMaio said. “The total state taxes, fees, and mandates on gas are about $1 per gallon in California. This does not include federal gas taxes, just the state of California.”

The state government is using the road money as a slush fund for spending on other items, DeMaio says.

“Only about 20 percent of every gas tax dollar collected [in California] actually makes it into road infrastructure,” DeMaio said. “About 50 percent of the funds are diverted to transit projects or programs that have nothing to do with roads. The remaining funds are gobbled up by administrative fees. If you are going to tax gas, 100 percent of what is collected should be spent on road maintenance.”

‘Most Onerous’ Taxes, Regulations

Akash Chougule, director of policy at Americans for Prosperity, says raising the gas tax will only exacerbate California’s economic and financial problems.

“California has the most onerous tax and regulatory policies in the country,” he said. “It is already an unbelievably uncompetitive place to do business because of its tax climate, and the fuel tax increase will only make this problem worse.

“The increased gas tax does not just affect people who put gas in their cars,” Chougule said. “Individuals trying to realize the American Dream by starting or growing a business are going to find that it becomes even more expensive to do business in California.”

Hitting Poor People Harder

The gas tax hike disproportionately affects low-income individuals, Chougule says.

“The very wealthy elites, who pass tax hikes like this in California, can easily bear the costs, but working folks cannot,” Chougule said. “Many California residents are already struggling to keep up with the state’s high cost of living, especially those living in the urban areas. The regressive nature of this tax makes that particularly painful for low-income individuals.”