California vehicle tax and fee increase repeal effort moves forward

April 27, 2018

Keith Goble

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A bid in California to void last year’s vehicle tax and fee increases is one step closer to being added to the statewide ballot.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a year ago 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 statehouse without a vote to spare.

As of Nov. 1, 2017, the new law increased the diesel tax by 20 cents and raised the gas tax by 12 cents. Other vehicle fees in the deal went up Jan. 1, including an increase from 4 percent to 5.75 percent in sales tax applied to diesel purchases.

The additional taxes and fees do not end there. Another 7.5-cent gas tax increase is scheduled to occur in July 2019.

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

Since last fall, a Republican-led group has been working to get signatures as part of a ballot initiative to repeal the tax and fee increases.

The group announced this week they have tallied nearly 900,000 signatures in support of putting the repeal question on the November statewide ballot. The state requires 584,000 valid signatures. State election officials still must verify the signatures.

Also this week, state officials revealed that $2.4 billion of the estimated $5.2 billion in annual revenue resulting from SB1 would be spent on transit work.

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Advocates say transit projects would help the state reduce congestion on roadways and aid efforts to meet climate and air quality goals.

Some Republicans say the tax and fee increases put too much of a strain on lower- and middle-class residents. They add that past fuel tax revenues have gone for other programs – a trend they expect to continue.

The Democratic governor has said the tax and fee increases are necessary to address a $130 billion backlog in deferred in road maintenance. He is defiant about the repeal effort.

“Fighting the gas tax may appear to be good politics, but it isn’t,” Brown said during his State of the State address early this year. “I will do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort that gets on the ballot.”

Passage of the citizen vote would also prevent any future tax increases without a statewide vote.

Secession ballot effort
A separate effort has been given the go-ahead to collect signatures for inclusion on a future statewide ballot. The question would ask California residents whether they want to discuss declaring independence from the United States.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced this week the ballot proposal’s approval. If the effort collects the necessary 365,880 signatures from registered voters before an Oct. 17 deadline a question would be included on the November 2020 ballot about secession. If approved, voters would decide on May 4, 2021, whether to secede.

 

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Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.