Assembly member Travis Allen spearheads campaign and initiative to repeal fuel levy.
STATEWIDE — A Republican member of Congress who once represented a sizable portion of Los Angeles County told this writer he wished he could have been a Democrat. His heart was always supportive of social causes. His mind, conversely, overrode his bleeding heart and always erred on the side of practicality. It would be impossible for taxpayers, fiscally speaking, to support every single social cause or “greater good” proposal, regardless of its good intentions.
Odds are most people would not identify the recent gasoline tax hike as a noble social cause – even though policymakers have argued the levy is necessary to modernize our roads. The words of the now-retired representative, regardless of your position on the gasoline tax, are applicable nonetheless.
California’s roads are failing and the state needs an infusion of cash to pay for much needed infrastructure improvements, those who supported the gas tax hike argued. Not paying for these improvements now would only mean greater costs down the line, supporters continued. Enacting a 12-cent fuel hike – diesel users would pay more – would provide the state with enough cash to pay for the needed improvements.
The question, to the former representative’s point, is whether the gasoline tax hike ventured into “fiscally impractical” territory. Sure our roads are in of repair and modernization, but at what cost?
Legislators, voters and others who were against the gas tax hike argued other funds were already allocated for road repairs and other infrastructure improvements, so why weren’t those funds being used as intended?
This same question has persisted in recent weeks and is part of what’s fueling an attempt to challenge the gasoline tax.
Some questioned whether policymakers were genuinely planning to direct revenues from the new gasoline tax revenue to California’s roads, bridges and other similar infrastructure.
Obviously boaters are not too happy the extra money going into their vessels will be used to fix roads. (Although the tax hike does have a provision to ultimately redirect some money to California’s Division of Boating of Waterways.)
The previous issue of The Log provided a broad overview of what the gas tax hike could mean for boaters once the measure begins kicking in later this year. A handful of readers commented on the article almost as soon as it was published online – with some of those commentators stating a movement is in play to repeal the gas tax hike.
At least one legislator appears to be an active voice against Senate Bill 1, a bill the majority of Assembly members and State Senators approved before Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law.
Assembly member Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, formally filed a ballot initiative request to repeal the gasoline tax in May. Allen is also asking for $5 donations to help collect enough signatures to have the gasoline tax repeal placed on the November 2018 ballot.
A post on Allen’s Facebook page stated the petition requires at least 365,880 valid signatures to halt the tax and have the proposal voted on by the electorate.
“With Jerry Brown’s new gas tax, California will now rank among the highest gas taxes in the nation,” Allen said on his Facebook page a few weeks ago.
Complementing Allen’s ballot initiative campaign is an effort to recall State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton.
Newman’s election to the State Senate in November 2016 gave the Democrats a super majority in Sacramento, effectively allowing the party to push SB 1 through the legislature despite Republican opposition.
Of course any proposal to raise taxes is sure to cause a spike in the electorate’s collective blood pressure, no matter the reason for the hike. It’s one thing to principally support a well-intentioned initiative. Obviously no one wants California’s roads and bridges to fall apart. Paying for such an initiative, however, is always the difficult part.
Now California’s policymakers will tell you a tax hike today is less painful than tomorrow, if we don’t go forward with this levy.
Brown, for example, was recently quoted in an Orange County Register article as saying money to repair our roads, if not paid for by the tax hike, could be taken out of funds for education.
A legislative analysis out of the Assembly stated California’s gas tax has not been increased since 1994. California’s population has increased by 8 million people in those 23 years, with more people taking to the roads within the same time span.
“Californians also drive more than 350 billion miles a year – more than any other state – yet road and transit investments have not kept pace with this growth,” the Assembly’s legislative analysis stated. “The deterioration of California’s state and local streets and roads and state highway system has been widely documented. Specifically, the state highways system is facing $59 billion deferred maintenance backlog for road maintenance and repairs. The total shortfall for local streets and roads maintenance is approximately $7.3 billion annually.”
The Assembly’s legislative analysis stated rough roads cause the state’s drivers to pay an extra $700 annually in vehicle repairs – and conditions might worsen within the next 10 years.
“State highways and local streets and roads are not the only areas in need of additional funding for basic maintenance and upkeep. Transit operators are similarly experiencing their own respective funding shortfalls, estimated to be $72 billion over the next ten years,” the Assembly’s legislative analysis stated.
At least two natural questions stem from this analysis – assuming the figures cited are accurate.
Is the extra $700 on maintenance more or less costly than what the same person would spend during the life of this 12-cent-per-gallon (or more for diesel uses) levy?
Where else can money be found to pay for infrastructure repairs while also avoiding a tax hike?