SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California voters will get the chance to ax a gas tax intended to pay for long-term highway maintenance and infrastructure projects after a repeal measure qualified for the November ballot on Monday.
Repealing the gas tax has become a rallying cry for fiscal conservatives in the Golden State, who call the tax unnecessary and say there has been no guarantee from legislators that the money will go to road repairs.
The long-term transportation reform and funding package was signed into law in April 2017 by Gov. Jerry Brown. Senate Bill 1 took effect this past January, raising vehicle fees and instituting a 12-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline.
But Republicans say the gas tax said was passed without input from the voters, as Democrats held a supermajority when the bill made its way through the state Senate and Assembly.
One Southern California district even recalled their local representative during the June primaries over his support of the gas tax. Former state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, was recalled by about 2,300 votes and replaced with Republican candidate Ling Ling Chang, who was sworn in on Monday.
The irony of Newman bearing the brunt of voter anger is that he was not the key vote in the passage of the gas tax. Newman joined 26 state senators who voted yes for SB1, while just 14 voted no.
Brown dismissed Newman’s recall as nothing more than a tactic by Republicans to take back a state Senate seat. And on Monday, Brown tweeted his disapproval of the effort to repeal the gas tax.
“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.
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who received President Donald Trump’s endorsement, applauded the repeal initiative.
“This is a message to the millions of forgotten Californians ignored by the Sacramento political elite, help is on the way,” Cox said.
“Let this also be a message to every special interest in Sacramento, we’re coming for you. You can outspend the people, but you can’t outvote the people, because there are more of us than there are of you.”
The gas tax is expected to raise billions of dollars over the next decade, which would go toward repairs and upgrades to local roads and highways and support of public transit and intercity rail, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Repeal organizer Carl Demaio of the political action committee Reform California said there is more than enough money to fix roads in California. He believes the gas tax is being diverted from roads to fund other transit programs at the expense of car lanes.
“What should be going to roads is lining the pockets of Sacramento politicians, going to their salaries,” said Demaio before Monday’s announcement by the Secretary of State’s Office that the measure will be on the November ballot.
The Secretary of State’s Office said the initiative passed the threshold of 585,407 verified signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
A public opinion poll from the Bill Lane Center at Stanford University found 42 percent of voters support a repeal, while 26 percent are undecided.