California Governor Will Combat Efforts to Repeal Gas Tax

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By Laura Mahoney

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will fight an effort to ask voters in November to repeal a recent gas tax increase that’s raising funds for infrastructure projects.

In his final State of the State address, Brown said the 2017 vote in the Legislature to boost the tax was essential to maintaining and improving roads and transit. Twenty-five other states have raised gas taxes, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for a federal gas tax because the federal highway trust fund is depleted, he said.

“Fighting a gas tax may appear to be good politics, but it isn’t,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort that gets on the ballot. You can count on that.”

Increased diesel and gas taxes, and new fees on vehicles, are expected to raise $52.4 billion in new transportation funding over 10 years.

Revived Repeal Measure

Although one measure backed by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R) failed to qualify for the ballot because of insufficient voter signatures as of Jan. 22, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox has begun to gather signatures for another repeal measure. Cox has until May 21 to gather 585,407 signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Republicans are also using the 2017 gas tax vote in the Legislature to mount a recall election against Sen. Josh Newman (D), who was first elected in 2016 to represent an Orange County district that had been held by a Republican.

Newman’s win gave Democrats a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate and the ability to pass tax increases without a need for Republican votes. His recall election is set for June 5, the same day as the statewide primary.

The State of the State address was Brown’s sixteenth and last in his second, eight-year run as governor. This is the last year of his current four-year term.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif., at lmahoney@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bloombergtax.com

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