October 19, 2017 12:00 PM, EDT

California GOP Rallies Around Measure to Repeal New State Gas Tax


Organizers of a campaign to qualify a ballot measure that would repeal the state’s gas tax and new vehicle fees unveiled their growing coalition Oct. 18 at the state Republican Party headquarters, where GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox said he will make a “substantial” donation to the effort.

Cox, a wealthy businessman, declined to give specifics about how much he will donate to the campaign, which named him honorary co-chair.

To qualify for the November 2018 ballot, organizers of the measure have to collect 584,000 signatures, a hefty lift for any effort. The ballot measure would be a constitutional amendment because it not only repeals the gas tax and vehicle fee increases approved this year, but it also requires voters to approve any future increases.

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Rep. Doug LaMalfa, (R-Richvale) and Rep. Mimi Walters, (R-Irvine), both spoke in support of the potential ballot measure.

“I’m from the business world, and I know you can’t just keep raising your prices because people just won’t buy,” Cox said. “That’s what is happening in California. ... Working Californians are questioning if they can even stay in a state that politicians are making even more unaffordable as we speak.”

Political observers say such a ballot measure would surely ensure conservative voters will turn out to the polls in the 2018 general election, which will include the governor’s and U.S. Senate races.

Another Republican running for governor, Assemblyman Travis Allen, (R-Huntington Beach), is also pursuing a ballot measure to undo SB1, the bill that increased the gas tax and vehicle fees.

The state Legislature passed SB1 with two-thirds support in April to raise $52 billion in new taxes and fees to pay for repairs to the state’s roads and bridges. Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law.

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Under SB1, the state’s gas excise tax, which is currently 18 cents per gallon, will increase by 12 cents. The excise tax on diesel fuel, which is primarily used by the commercial trucking industry, will increase by 20 cents a gallon to 36 cents. The diesel sales tax also will rise to 5.75% from 1.75%. Those increases begin Nov. 1.

Beginning Jan. 1, vehicle registration fees will increase by $25 to $175 depending on the value of the vehicle. Owners of zero-emission vehicles will begin paying an additional $100 annual fee beginning in 2020.

“If this gets on the ballot, we are still very confident that voters will reject it because voters are sick and tired of bad roads,” said Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the Fix Our Roads coalition that supported SB1. “They want better roads. They want to spend less time in traffic. They want better commutes and to spend less money on fixing their cars due to poor roads.”

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