Opposing sides clash over language of California gas tax repeal

Proponents of Proposition 6, the initiative to repeal California’s gas tax, are sending out mailers to voters who they have dubbed ballot “corrections” in response to alleged misleading wording of the measure that could dampen support for it. Meanwhile, opponents of the gas tax repeal are accusing backers of the initiative of attempting to deceive voters. [New York Times]

Prop. 6, if passed, would repeal a recent gas tax increase that raised the base tax on gasoline 12 cents from 18 cents to 30 cents per gallon. However, the title of the initiative appearing on voters’ ballots makes no mention of the proposed repeal.

“Eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding. Requires certain fuel taxes and vehicle fees be approved by the electorate. Initiative constitutional amendment,” the Prop. 6 ballot title states.

If Prop. 6 were to pass, the tax repeal would reduce the state’s transportation tax revenue by about $5 billion annually. Likewise, it would require future gas tax and vehicle fee increases to be approved by voters.

Conservatives backing Prop. 6 allege the Democrat-controlled state government placed language on the ballot that hides the essence of the measure — a tax repeal — and instead emphasizes the potential reduction in funding for roads and transportation projects. Prop. 6 supporters have recently sent out automated phone calls saying there is a mistake on the ballot, in addition to circulating the mailer stating ballot “correction.”

Opponents of Prop. 6 accuse the initiative’s supporters of trying to deceive voters by emulating an official voter guide with “fake” mailers. Additionally, opponents of the gas tax repeal say the backers of the initiative had the opportunity to challenge the language of the measure in court but chose not to.

Supporters of the repeal said it is costly to challenge the language in court, and they are opting instead to spend money on educating voters.

While polling earlier this year indicated a gas tax repeal measure might pass, current polling shows it is more likely the initiative will fail. In a mid October poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 41 percent of responders said they planned to vote for the repeal, while 48 percent said they opposed the measure.

Opponents of Prop. 6 are far outpacing supporters of the measure in the fundraising battle. Prop. 6 opponents have raised $44 million, while supporters have raised $5 million.