The Buzz is the Register’s weekly political news column.
Assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen was the first to prepare a ballot measure calling for the repeal the state’s new gas tax, but a second proposal is gaining momentum while Allen’s is poised to die.
The Huntington Beach Republican submitted his plan to state elections officials in June, but has since been engaged in legally wrangling over the title given the measure by Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The 12-cent per gallon hike effective Nov .1 — along with an increase in the vehicle license fee — is designed to pay for $52 billion in road and transportation improvements over the next decade. Becerra’s title focuses on the improvements and doesn’t mention the tax.
While Allen succeeded in winning a Superior Court ruling to have the title include the words “repeals gas tax,” Becerra prevailed on appeal and on Wednesday the state Supreme Court announced it would allow the appeals court ruling to stand.
Becerra’s title: “Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for Those Purposes. Initiative Statute.”
Allen, who called the Supreme Court decision a “mockery of justice,” had been counting on a high-court victory that would reset the six-month window for collecting signatures.
Instead, the original deadline of Jan. 8 will apparently stand, making it unlikely Allen will be gather the 365,880 signatures required. As of last week, he had not begun collecting signatures.
In the meantime, a coalition behind a separate ballot measure to eliminate the new tax submitted paperwork in October and notified elections officials on Dec. 15 it had gathered 25 percent of the 585,407 signatures needed. The higher signature threshold is because the coalition’s measure calls for an amendment to the state Constitution while Allen’s did not. The group has until May 21 to collect the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.
While opponents to the gas tax say the state should make need improvements with existing funds, proponents of say using existing money would require cuts in other areas. Gov. Jerry Brown say the increases — which include a vehicle license fee hike of about $50 for the average car owner — are overdue and bring the taxes and fees into line with those 30 years when adjusted for inflation.
The measure received the two-thirds state legislative vote required for new taxes on a party-line vote, with just one Republican supporting the plan. However, it has been endorsed by many in the business community who typically align with the GOP, including Orange County Business Council and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
The coalition behind the repeal measure already gathering signatures includes the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox and San Diego talk radio host Carl DeMaio. A UC Berkeley poll released Friday found that likely voters favored repealing the gas tax, 52 percent to 43 percent.
Like Allen’s measure, the coalition proposal received a Becerra title that does not mention a repeal of the gas tax. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said that while the group is proceeding with signature-gathering with the current title, it may sue to try to have a different title appear on the November ballot.
Becerra’s title for that one: “Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for those Purposes. Requires any Measure to Enact Certain Vehicle Fuel Taxes and Vehicle Fees be Submitted to and Approved by the Electorate. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.”
The coalition prefers a constitutional amendment to Allen’s proposed repeal because the constitutional approach will require a voter approval before any gas tax can be increased in the future. Allen’s measure would only address the current plan, and would do nothing to prevent the Legislature from passing the same plan again.
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