SAN DIEGO — The push to repeal the state of California’s most recent gas tax is moving forward.
On April 30, former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, gubernatorial candidate John Cox, Diane Harkey, a republican candidate for the 49th Congressional district, and Kris Urdahl, a Carlsbad District 3 candidate, carried boxes of signatures to file with the San Diego County Registrars of Voters to repeal the 12.5 cent tax on the November ballot.
DeMaio said he and his group, the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative, collected more than 940,000 signatures, which is nearly 400,000 more than required by state law. The ROV must certify the signatures before the initiative is placed on the ballot.
The repeal aims to override Senate Bill 1, which would raise an estimated $52.4 billion over the next 10 years for transportation projects. DeMaio also dismissed Proposition 69, which directs and protects gas tax funds specifically toward transportation projects, which he called, “snake oil.”
“There is no lock,” he said of Proposition 69. “The reality is there is no lock box, there is no guarantee on the gas tax increase. That proposition allows the governor to divert all monies without a vote of the legislature.”
“This is all about mismanagement,” Cox added. “They’ve been spending money like drunken sailors and that’s an insult to drunken sailors. California spends four times as much as Texas to build a mile of road. That is waste and corruption.”
Drivers in California were hit the new tax on Nov. 1, 2017, which added 12.5 cents per gallon for unleaded and 20 cents for diesel fuel. DeMaio, a Republican, began the repeal campaign in San Diego holding several protests and petition drives where several gas stations slashed prices to between $1.99 and $2.49 per gallon earlier this year.
More than 45 events have been held across the state to continue to grow the public awareness of the effort, DeMaio said. He said estimates suggest the tax will cost $700 or more per family, per year and vehicle registration fees will increase between $25 and $175 per year, depending on the value of the vehicle.
DeMaio also took aim at Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, saying fraud and special interests eliminated the ability for the public to vote on the tax, which was approved through the state legislature.
“They raised our taxes without a vote of the people,” DeMaio said. “California voters know there is already fraud going on with the existing gas tax today. It’s diverted by Sacramento politicians to go to their pet projects, the pension system, to salaries and benefits for bloated bureaucracies.”
Another big issue is the collection and disbursement of funds generated by the tax. Tax revenue goes into the state’s General Fund, meaning there’s zero guarantee the money will be used to actually fund the transportation “fixes” they claim will happen, DeMaio added.
California had the second-highest gas tax in the nation before Senate Bill 1.
Supporters of the tax, meanwhile, counter DeMaio’s arguments as political spin. Catherine Hill of the League of California Cities, which is part of the Coalition to Protect Local Transportation, said the state is already engaged in more than 4,000 projects statewide.
On May 1, the California Transportation Commission (Caltrans) recommended the San Diego region be awarded $311 million in funds to be generated by the passage of Senate Bill 1, which recently increased the state gas tax to fund a wide variety of transportation projects throughout the state, according to a press release.
The California Transportation Commission will consider the recommendation when it meets in San Diego on May 16 and May 17. Recommendations include $195 million for the North Coast Corridor Program, $82 million for the California-Mexico Border System Project and $10.5 million for the Sorrento to Miramar Double Track Project. Commission staff recommendations also included about $24 million for other local transportation projects; such as $12.5 million for the city of Escondido, approximately $6 million for the Port of San Diego and $6 million for the city of San Diego.
“We have about a $160 billion backlog,” Hill said. “This money will go to fixing potholes, resurfacing our streets, bridge construction as well as state highways. It’s a public safety issue. This is new money to do this and Prop. 69 is going to constitutionally protect it as a lock box.”