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California Gas-Tax-Hike Repeal Campaign Heats Up

June 13, 2017

As a ballot initiative calling for repeal of a big gas-tax hike gains momentum in California, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) criticized the campaign, calling its supporters “freeloaders.”

As a ballot initiative calling for repeal of a big gas-tax hike gains momentum in California, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) criticized the campaign, calling its supporters “freeloaders.” 

Brown signed Senate Bill 1 into law on April 28, increasing the state’s excise tax on gasoline to 40 cents per gallon, a 12 cent—or approximately 43 percent—hike, starting on November 1. On May 4, State Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) filed paperwork to begin collecting signatures to ask voters in 2018 to overturn the gas tax.

Speaking of the campaign, Brown told the Orange County Register on May 12, “The freeloaders—I’ve had enough of them.”

To place the question before voters in November 2018, supporters will have to collect 63,593 valid signatures by October 1.

Motor Voter Power

Allen, the lawmaker leading the repeal campaign, says Brown’s gas-tax hike insults taxpayers.

“Jerry Brown is telling Californians he’s going to raise their gas taxes to the highest they’ve ever been in history, and to top it off, he calls anyone who doesn’t want to pay the tax a ‘freeloader,’” Allen said. “When he ran in 2010, his direct quote was ‘no new taxes without voter approval.’”

Solving the Wrong Problem

Brown’s gas-tax hike will not solve the state’s traffic problems, Allen says.

“This new gas tax does not increase [road] capacity anywhere in the state,” Allen said. “It will build no new lanes of freeways. If Californians didn’t like their traffic before, they’re going to like it even less when they’re stuck in the exact same traffic and paying more for their gas.”

Road Money for Roads

David Spady, state director for the California chapter of Americans for Prosperity, says California should use existing road funds for roads only, before taking more money from taxpayers.

“California doesn’t need more money for roads; it needs laws mandating that existing gas taxes and heavy-vehicles tax revenue is only spent on roads and infrastructure,” Spady said. “The legislature can’t help but raid these funds for other purposes. If current gas taxes and weight levies were spent the way they were supposed to be spent over the past couple of decades, the state road system would be in far better shape.”

Highway Robbery

Spady says California lawmakers used road funds as slush funds for their pet projects in the past, causing today’s problems.

“California’s roads are a disaster because for years politicians have kicked the can down the road, diverted funds to projects like bike paths and trains, and allowed a bloated government pension system to crowd out funds that could have been used for infrastructure and repair,” Spady said.

Author
Joshua Paladino writes from Hillsdale, Michigan.
jpaladino@hillsdale.edu