SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Along with a list of highly anticipated congressional races with national implications, California’s loaded November ballot will feature a dozen statewide ballot measures where voters decide the fate of a $52 billion transportation tax, a peculiar plan to split the Golden State in three, billions in funding for veterans and homeless housing and whether to scrap Daylight Saving Time.
Over 100 years after Gov. Hiram Johnson and his fellow reformers poured the foundation for direct democracy, ballot initiatives continue to play a major role in California politics. Johnson wanted to break up the railroad companies’ dominating sway over the state Legislature in the early 20th century by allowing voters to propose their own laws and recall corrupt lawmakers.
Over the decades, California voters have used the initiative process to decide on a parade of far-reaching measures with financial, political and social impacts. Voters froze skyrocketing property taxes in 1978, passed term limits for state senators in 1990, approved a ban on same-sex marriage in 2008 and cleared recreational marijuana use in 2016.
Today, residents or advocacy groups willing to pay a $2,000 filing fee can still write their own proposed laws and attempt to drum up enough voter support to land them on the ballot.
This November’s ballot will include at least 12 propositions: nine from voters and three by the Legislature.
Armed with a dominating two-thirds majority in both state chambers, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown introduced a $52 billion fix for the state’s crumbling roads and highways in March 2017.
“This is like fixing the roof on your house: If you don’t fix the leak your furniture will be ruined, your rug will be destroyed, the wood will rot,” Brown said of the package known as the “gas tax.”
One week later the Legislature cleared the proposal, raising state’s gas tax by 12 cents to 30 cents per gallon and hiking vehicle registration fees.
Brown and state Democrats hailed the legislation as the savior for California’s crumbling infrastructure. Republicans, however, have used it as a rallying cry.
The minority party sponsored the successful recall this month of a Southern California Democrat who voted for the gas tax in the state Senate and replaced him with a Republican. Gas tax opponents, including Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, argue Brown’s legislation was rushed through the Legislature without much public input.
“This is a message to the millions of forgotten Californians ignored by the Sacramento political elite, help is on the way,” Cox said after the repeal effort qualified for the November ballot.
If voters approve the measure, the state would have to scrap the contentious gas tax and find a way to replace the estimated $5 billion in annual transportation funding generated by the package.
Cox and the Republican authors will face a stern opponent in Gov. Brown, who still has millions of dollars left in his campaign war chest and nothing else to spend them on since the 80-year-old is termed out this year.
“This flawed and dangerous measure pushed by Trump’s Washington allies jeopardizes the safety of millions of Californians by stopping local communities from fixing their crumbling roads and bridges. Just say no,” Brown tweeted.