California fuel tax increase repeal gains momentum

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, September 25, 2017

A California court has stepped in to rebuke the state for “misleading” language on a ballot initiative and to nix upcoming increases in vehicle taxes and fees.

Gov. Jerry Brown acted this spring to sign into law a 10-year, $52 billion transportation funding deal to benefit state and local roads, trade corridors, and public transit. Senate Bill 1 passed the Democrat-led Legislature without one vote to spare.

The new law is slated to increase the diesel tax by 20 cents and raise the gas tax by 12 cents.

The effective date is Nov. 1. Other vehicle fees included in the deal will go up Jan. 1.

Opponents of the new law are not going away quietly. Republican state Rep. Travis Allen of Huntington Beach has filed an initiative to repeal the tax and fee increases.

The California Attorney General’s office is required to issue a title and summary for the ballot initiative. The effort must gain 365,880 valid signatures over the next six months to secure its spot on the November 2018 statewide ballot.

The ballot title submitted by Attorney General Xavier Becerra reads: “Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.”

Allen filed a lawsuit July 14 against the Democratic attorney general’s office because of the wording used in the title and summary for the proposed measure. Allen, who is running for governor in 2018, took issue with the fact that the words “tax” and “fee” were omitted from the title.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley last week sided with Allen.

“The court agrees with the petitioner that the attorney general’s title and summary is confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure,” Frawley wrote.

Frawley announced he would draft a new title and summary to be placed on petitions for the initiative. The judge stepped in to craft the wording because both sides were unable to reach agreement on compromise language.

He is expected to release the new title and summary on Monday.

“This brings us one step closer to repealing Jerry Brown’s hugely unpopular gas tax,” Allen said in written remarks.

In the meantime, truckers fueling will begin paying another 20 cents per gallon on Nov. 1. The gas tax also will increase by 12 cents. Another 7.5-cent gas tax increase is scheduled for July 2019.

In addition, the 1.75 percent sales tax applied to diesel purchases will be increased by 4 percent to 5.75 percent.

All tax and fee rates are slated to be indexed to inflation to allow for increases in future years.

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