Political Divide Over California Gas Tax Hike

DUBLIN (KPIX 5) — While some politicians applauded the enacting of a new gas tax in California and the money it will bring for road and transit repairs, others are already preparing a repeal effort.

Bay Area politicos, including state Senator Jim Beale, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Dublin Mayor David Haubert joined representatives from BART, Caltrans, AC Transit and other agencies in Dublin Wednesday to celebrate the billions of dollars the gas tax will bring for transit and road projects.

But not everyone is applauding the new 12 cents per gallon gas tax, or the 20 cents per gallon diesel tax – nor the soon-to-come hike in the vehicle license fee of up to $175 a year that was narrowly passed by the legislature earlier this year.

“This is the highest gas tax in California history and we never got a chance to vote on it,” said state Republican state Assemblyman Travis Allen.

Allen, who is running for governor, is spearheading a drive to collect the 366,000 signatures needed to put a repeal of the new gas tax on the November 2018 ballot.

“Money is not the problem in Sacramento, they get more of it than they ever have,” said Allen. “The problem is that they have been spending in other places.”

Allen is not alone. In June, a poll by the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Government Studies found that six out of 10 voters oppose the gas tax hike, meaning the repeal could pass.

“Even in the Bay Area, it outperforms. Repealing the tax was 46 percent to 45 percent,” said Allen.

The argument for keeping the tax? “It will actually prevent tax increases in the future because the roads will not get worse, they will get better,” said Beale.

The timing of the gas tax hike is also raising questions. The hike is going into effect just as refineries switch from the higher-cost summer gas blend to the cheaper winter blend. So you may not notice the increase right away.

“It was an intentional deliberate way to mask this tax increase to the California voters,” said Allen.

“The fact of the matter is that the roads are falling apart and getting worse, and we need to do something,” said Beale. “I think we have a strong coalition that is ready to defeat any ballot measure.”

More from Phil Matier
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