California gas tax repeal reportedly to go on November ballot

It appears California voters may soon get the chance to have their say on the state’s controversial gas tax increase.

The Sacramento Bee initially reported Monday that an initiative calling for the repeal of state’s recent gas tax hike officially qualified on Friday for the November ballot. Later Monday morning, the Sacramento Bee changed its report, saying the initiative is “poised” to qualify for the ballot. Currently, the California Secretary of State’s Office lists the proposed ballot measure as initiative pending signature verification.

California’s gas tax increase, which took effect last year, raised the base tax on gasoline 12 cents from 18 cents per gallon to 30 cents per gallon. Taxes on diesel increased even more.

The excise tax on diesel increased 20 cents from 16 cents per gallon to 36 cents per gallon, and the diesel sales tax rose from 1.75 percent to 5.75 percent. Additionally, there is a new vehicle registration fee ranging from $25 a year to $175 annually.

A campaign attempting to repeal the tax hike recently turned in more than 900,000 signatures to state elections officials. Approximately 585,000 valid signatures are needed to get a measure on this November’s ballot.

The proposed repeal initiative would not only do away with the gas tax hike, but also require future gas tax and vehicle fee increases to be approved by California voters.

If the measure makes it on the November ballot and is approved by voters, it would reduce state transportation tax revenue by $2.9 billion in the upcoming fiscal year. By 2020-2021, the state would lose $4.9 billion in annual tax revenue, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

The gas tax revenue is primarily intended to support state highway maintenance and rehabilitation, local streets and roads and mass transit. It is also supposed to support bicycle path projects.

Critics say the tax hike is compensating for frivolous spending by state legislators, and it amounts to theft from the taxpayer. Republican candidate for governor John Cox is making the gas tax a focal point of his campaign. Cox is also one of the leaders of the gas tax repeal movement.

Earlier this month, during the primary election, Southern California voters recalled a Democratic assemblyman over his vote for the gas tax increase. Voters in the Orange County-dominated district replaced the recalled Democrat with a Republican.

Polls have indicated there would be a competitive campaign if the repeal initiative were to appear on the November ballot. Some poll have suggested the California electorate would vote to repeal the tax increase.