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April 25, 2018 12:30 PM, EDT

California Republicans Ready to Turn in Signatures for Ballot Measure to Repeal Gas-Tax Increase

Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

Republican activists said April 24 that they have collected at least 830,000 signatures for an initiative to repeal recent increases in California’s gas tax and vehicle fees, more than enough to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The activists need 585,407 signatures of registered voters to qualify the ballot measure.

Because signatures still are being processed and counted by the campaign, backers hope to have 900,000 by the time they begin turning them in to the counties April 27, according to Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego City Council member and organizer of the drive.

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“The breadth and depth of voter anger over the car and gas tax hikes is just amazing,” said DeMaio, who hosts a radio talk show. “We are seeing Democrats, independents and Republicans sign the petition and volunteering to carry the petition, people from all walks of life.”

The initiative targets a law approved in April 2017 by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown that is expected to raise $5.4 billion annually for road and bridge repairs and improvements to mass transit.

The money comes from a recent 12-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, a 20-cent increase in the diesel fuel excise tax and a new annual vehicle fee ranging from $25 for cars valued at under $5,000, to $175 for cars worth $60,000 or more.

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The petition drive raised more than $2 million with significant contributions from the California Republican Party and Republican members of Congress from California, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Reps. Ken Calvert of Corona and Mimi Walters of Irvine.

Republicans hope the issue will help their candidates for office in this year’s election and hurt Democrats who support the higher taxes.

“I think this is going to put Democrats in real bad spot,” DeMaio said.

A spokesman for Brown declined to comment until the signatures are filed.

DeMaio said there were approximately 20,000 volunteer petition circulators who brought in more than 250,000 signatures, with the rest collected by paid circulators who received $1 to $2.50 per signature.

“It’s a pretty comfortable margin [of signatures] that we have been able to hit here,” DeMaio said.

Opposition will grow, he said, as more Californians get their annual vehicle registration notice.

The repeal campaign hopes to raise $5 million for the campaign to pass the constitutional amendment, which would not only repeal the increase in the gas tax and vehicle fees but require future increases to be submitted to voters.

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