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Rival Bids To Overturn California Gas Tax Join Forces

GollyGforce / Flickr

GollyGforce / Flickr

The effort to overturn the fuel tax and vehicle fee increases in California’s new transportation funding law appears to be gaining momentum.

The author of one proposed ballot measure is now backing a rival initiative that could be headed for the November election.

The first measure was authored by Orange County Assemblyman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen. It would have repealed the transportation funding law – SB 1 – word for word.

But it’s been held up in a legal battle over how voters would see it described on the ballot. Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra assigned it what Allen calls an unfair title and summary.

So Allen is now endorsing a different initiative backed by his GOP rival in the governor’s race, San Diego businessman John Cox – who gleefully jabbed Allen in a recent debate on KPCC.

“Travis, welcome to the fight on getting rid of the gas tax!“ Cox said. “Glad to have you on board, finally!”

Cox has joined the campaign for the second ballot measure and, as Allen was quick to point out a moment later in the debate, chipped in some money in exchange for being named campaign chairman.

“I’d like to say thank you very much to John Cox for writing a $250,000 check to buy his way into the repeal the gas tax,” Allen quipped.

Political shots aside, the second initiative does have some momentum. The campaign says it’s gathered more than two-thirds of the 585,407 signatures needed to qualify.

The measure would require voter approval for any gas tax or vehicle fee increases.

“And then it applies that constitutional mandate retroactively to January 1st of 2017, effectively repealing this particular gas tax and requiring that any increase in those taxes go back to the voters,” says Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, one of the initiative’s other backers.

But if the measure qualifies for the November ballot, it’s expected to face strong opposition – including from Gov. Jerry Brown, who said he thinks it can be beaten.

“If it does pass, it’ll be a decade at least before anyone thinks of providing the necessary money for roads and bridges,” Brown said as he presented his budget proposal earlier this month.

Backers of the second initiative have until mid-May to turn in their voter signatures, but they’ll likely do so earlier to ensure the signatures are verified in time for the measure to make the November ballot.

 Election 2018

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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