As California gas prices increase with new tax, GOP candidates see opportunity with repeal efforts
by Drew Gregory Lynch | November 13, 2017 11:42 am
The price of gas spiked 12 cents per gallon in California earlier this month, as a result of the Democrat-backed transportation bill that now puts the Golden State in front of Hawaii for the highest gas prices in the nation.
Under Senate Bill 1, $5.2 billion is designated annually to repair roads and bridges in the state, in addition to provide more funding for mass transit projects.
“Safe and smooth roads make California a better place to live and strengthen our economy,” Gov. Jerry Brown said back in April. “This legislation will put thousands of people to work.”
With the new law, it brings the total tax at the pump to 36 cents per gallon.
Republicans have blasted the law, using it as more fuel for arguments that the Legislature is using the taxpayer to bail out wasteful spending in Sacramento.
“Thanks to Gov. Brown and the out-of-control California Legislature … every California commuter will be reminded how Sacramento’s failure to govern directly impacts their pocketbook,” Jack Pandol, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. “California families living paycheck-to-paycheck will hold Democrats accountable for this regressive tax on the poor.”
Democrats argue the tax increase is needed to fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure, noting that the last gas tax hike was 23 years ago. But the GOP maintains that monies are available in the general fund and that Sacramento should ditch the long-plagued bullet train project to focus strictly on road and bridge improvements.
“California’s #SB1 gas tax increases kick-in today,” Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., added on social media. And it’s time we hold Sacramento Dems accountable.”
But despite the outrage from Republicans, the tax may provide an opportunity to boost turnout in the upcoming elections, as two gas tax repeal efforts are already taking shape – plans that could get fiscally conservative voters to the polls.
One measure is being backed by Orange County state assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen and would simply repeal the increase.
Another is backed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and San Diego businessman John Cox, also running as a Republican for governor. This plan would not only get rid of the increase, but also necessitate voter approval on any other efforts to raise the tax.
While the GOP candidates are lambasting the tax, behind closed doors they may be eager for an opportunity to drum up support – and increase their name recognition – with the initiatives. Because California is a jungle primary system, it’s possible that a Republican may not even be on the ballot in the general election in the overwhelmingly liberal state.
An intense and high-profile battle over the gas tax could bring out voters who may stay home otherwise – and have them vote for down-ballot Republicans in the process.
But still, powerful interests stand in the way, as groups like the influential California Chamber of Commerce, traditionally heavy backers of Republicans, are already warning GOP lawmakers in Congress to stay out of the fight because “with so much at stake, our organizations will have no option but to mount a robust and powerful effort in opposition to this initiative, using the voice of the California business community to counter your efforts.”
Furthermore, the tax rebellion may not be as strong as anticipated. For example, a new poll from Probolsky Research finds that 54 percent of voters actually support keeping it.
But still, proponents of a repeal are using the issue as a way to show voters that they have an opportunity to hold Sacramento accountable on fiscal issues in the state.
“There is already plenty of money to fix our roads but political elites and special interests wanted another blank check from California taxpayers,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association wrote in the OC Register. “For now, they have it. But come November 2018, voters might tear up that check by repealing these burdensome tax hikes.”
Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2017/11/13/california-gas-prices-increase-new-tax-gop-candidates-see-opportunity-repeal-efforts/