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Proposition 6: The Fight Over Last Year’s California Gas Tax Hike

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Californians will be voting on 11 ballot measures in November. One of the most contested  is Proposition 6, which would reverse last year’s fuel tax and vehicle fee increases.

At issue is Senate Bill 1, which Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers approved in Spring 2017. It raised gas taxes 12 cents per gallon, diesel taxes 20 cents per gallon (plus an additional four percent diesel sales tax increase), and vehicle fees anywhere from $25 to $175 per year based on a vehicle’s value.

Nearly two-thirds of that tax revenue goes to repair California’s highways and roads, according to a report from the state’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The rest funds mass transit and other transportation projects.

The question before voters with Proposition 6 is not simply whether to repeal SB 1. The initiative would also require voter approval for any fuel tax or vehicle fee hikes in the future — even those approved by future governors and Legislatures.

Yes on Proposition 6 Chairman Carl DeMaio said his main goal for the ballot measure is to save people money.

“This is not just about roads,” DeMaio said. “This is about cost of living. And a ‘yes’ vote on Prop 6 gives an immediate cost of living reprieve for working families who are barely making ends meet as it is.”

Opponents call that viewpoint shortsighted.

“There’s a hidden tax in terms of us all having to have additional repairs and things done to our vehicles due to the bad roads that people don’t necessarily recognize,” said Kiana Valentine with the California State Association of Counties. “So I think Prop 6 ends up costing California motorists more in the long term."

California now has the second-highest gas tax in the nation and the nation’s second highest gas prices. If Proposition 6 passes, the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the state would eventually lose more than $5 billion in fuel and vehicle tax revenues each year.

 Election 2018

Nadine Sebai

Temporary State Government Reporter

Nadine Sebai is Capital Public Radio’s temporary state government reporter. Nadine is also a co-editor of Local Matters, a weekly newsletter showcasing investigative and watchdog news stories from local publications across the country.  Read Full Bio 

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