Taxpayers shouldn’t tolerate gas tax extortion by transportation interests

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedA coalition of government entities and special interests which thrive on transportation dollars recently sent a threat letter to Republican members of Congress because those members have the audacity to oppose the huge tax increase passed by the California Legislature with the enactment of Senate Bill 1. The threat was not well received and, in fact, will likely backfire on the tax increase supporters.

The SB1 tax hike, imposed without voter approval, is very unpopular according to virtually all public and private polling. (A more recent poll claims that repeal of the gas tax is not supported by a majority of Californians, but that poll is suspect for several reasons, not the least of which is that the hike has yet to take affect.) Realizing how unpopular the gas tax is, several Republican members of Congress are contemplating support for a measure to repeal that tax.

Had the letter stuck to issues of transportation policy — such as why California needs to have the highest gas taxes in the nation — it would still have been wrong but at least it wouldn’t have been offensive. Unfortunately, supporters of the tax decided to take the low road and issued a thinly veiled threat that would have been more fitting for an episode of the Sopranos. Specifically, the letter stated, “We don’t think your objective is to create new political adversaries.” Moreover, the letter states that the coalition would “mount a robust and powerful effort in opposition to this initiative, using the voices of California’s business community to counter your efforts.”

As distinguished from the self-interested motivations of the tax increase proponents, including big construction corporations, the California Republican congressional delegation has decided to put the interests of middle-class taxpayers first and they should be commended for it. Indeed, in their written response, they demolish the arguments advanced by the special interests. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Gas tax repeal battle: Anti-taxers vs. business establishment

gas prices 2Business groups are threatening to wage a pricey campaign to stop California’s Republican officials from trying to repeal a new state gas tax—warning them not to “create new political adversaries.” But the politicians aren’t flinching.

Eleven GOP members of the state’s congressional delegation, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, responded that they aren’t as worried about “political threats” as they are about the financial burden the $5.2 billion-a-year gas would place on their constituents. And GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen, who’s running for governor and sponsoring one of the two repeal measures, struck a Trumpian tone, labeling the business groups “special interest thugs.

Once political allies, Republican incumbents and activists are openly sparring with pro-business groups for backing the transportation package Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed earlier this year. Such infighting between traditional conservative interests seems counterproductive for a party with diminished clout—but the GOP has little to lose in California.

With Democrats holding every statewide office and two-thirds majorities of the Legislature, the party of limited government hopes to make gains at the ballot box by repealing key Democratic measures. That’s why Republicans aim to gather enough voter signatures to place one or more gas tax repeal initiatives on the November ballot next year.

The GOP’s goal: rally conservatives and cut across party lines by inciting a taxpayer revolt. Success would boost turnout and improve prospects for Republicans in other races.

“If things continue as is in California politics, I think this is how future elections will look,” said Bill Whalen, a Hoover Institution research fellow at Stanford University and former speechwriter for GOP Gov. Pete Wilson. Currently, just 26 percent of registered voters are Republican, compared to 45 percent Democrats and 25 percent no party preference.

Call it Trumpism or populism, the strategy to run against the political establishment isn’t new, said Thad Kousser, political science professor at University of California, San Diego.

“I think it has a real shot,” he said of the gas tax repeal. “Every so often a proposition galvanizes the attention of voters enough, and if we have $4-a-gallon gas next November, this could be the thing.”

Worried about losing the first gas tax increase in 23 years, business groups such as the Los Angeles County Business Federation and Orange County Business Council joined construction unions and the League of California Cities in sending House Republicans the warning last month.

“With so much at stake,” the letter said, “our organizations will have no option but to mount a robust and powerful effort in opposition to this initiative, using the voices of California’s business community to counter your efforts.”

Because business interests rely on transportation and infrastructure to stay competitive, they’ve collaborated on those issues with state Democrats while simultaneously opposing them to fend off so-called job killer bills that increase labor costs or overburden businesses with regulation. But business’s pragmatism is running afoul of the Republican Party’s increasingly staunch opposition to taxes.

“It’s a clear sign the business community has hitched their wagon to a different party,” Kousser said.

The new gas tax is expected to allow Caltrans to make major repairs, including 17,000 miles of pavement, 500 bridges and 55,000 culverts over the next 10 years. The package will also fund local street and road repairs, as well as dramatically increase public transit funding.

It will do this by raising the base excise gas tax 12 cents per gallon, bringing it to 30 cents, starting Nov. 1. The excise tax on diesel fuel will increase to 36 cents per gallon.

Starting next year, the measure adds an annual vehicle fee ranging from $25 for cars valued at under $5,000 to $175 for cars worth $60,000 or more. Electric car owners will begin paying a $100 annual fee in lieu of gas taxes starting in 2020.

But Republicans insist that they can lead a taxpayer rebellion, and that voters will become disillusioned when they find out none of the money will go toward building additional freeway lanes to reduce congestion.

California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte says the state party will embrace the cause because Democrats pushed through a tax that punishes rural and suburban residents. Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle of Bieber said he’s all for a repeal because voters believe their money is being squandered. All but one GOP lawmaker, Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres, voted against the bill.

Gas tax supporters say Republicans are simply using the gas tax to raise their own profiles and to drive up conservative turnout in vulnerable districts.

“The critics of the letter are not interested in having a dialogue of fixing California’s transportation problems,” said Michael Quigley, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs, which represents heavy construction companies and their workers. “They are the ones who are the most opportunistic politically around this issue.”

Former San Diego city councilman turned conservative talk show host Carl DeMaio has been the frontman for one of two repeal efforts. DeMaio—who characterized Sacramento politicians as having Stockholm syndrome because they are easily bullied by the governor and lobbyists—says more than 250,000 people already have pledged online that they will be one of the 585,407 valid signatures needed to qualify the measure. This repeal option is a constitutional amendment that would also prevent any future increases of vehicle and gas taxes without voter approval.

“We’re not waiting for the politicians to provide leadership on this front, from either party,” said DeMaio. “The people don’t want this cost to be added to their family burden and as a result, people are really rising up.”

The irony, of course, is that campaigns to qualify a constitutional amendment require millions of dollars—money that political consultant Dave Gilliard has been working behind the scenes to gather. His clients include Reps. Darrell Issa of Vista, Mimi Walters of Irvine and Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, who are all being targeted by Democrats next year because they represent districts President Donald Trump lost.

Gilliard would not say who’s funding the initiative or if Issa, a car alarm mogul, would be contributing. He said he expects signature-gathering to begin in mid-November.

GOP consultant Rob Stutzman, who is working with the Fix Our Roads coalition to keep the gas tax in place, said it would be a “strategic mistake” for House Republicans to bankroll a repeal effort.

“There are other issues that can get Republicans to the polls without inciting tens of millions of dollars against you,” Stutzman said.

Gilliard, however, likened the gas tax repeal to Proposition 13, which caps property taxes at 1 percent of assessed value. Back in 1978, government and business groups campaigned against Proposition 13 but backers enjoyed a wave of anti-tax sentiment and spent hardly any money to pass it.

“They’re talking about spending $40 million to defend the tax but I don’t think it matters,” Gilliard said. “Once it’s on the ballot, the gas tax will go down to defeat because people will realize it’s overreaching and doesn’t add capacity to highways or roads.”

Besides DeMaio, another GOP underdog is championing the repeal.

Allen, the assemblyman from Huntington Beach, is leading his own initiative and will need 365,880 valid voter signatures to qualify (a lower threshold because it’s not a constitutional amendment.) He’s also come under scrutiny for soliciting donations for his gubernatorial campaign off his tax repeal website.

So far, the two campaigns show no indication of joining forces. Allen said he’s reached out to DeMaio, but DeMaio said, “I like my initiatives to be airtight and legally defensible.”

Allen scored a legal victory when a judge ruled that Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote a flawed and misleading title and summary of the initiative–never once using the words “gas or tax” in the title.

The judge rewrote it to say: “Repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Eliminates road repair and transportation programs funded by these taxes and fees.”

But in a twist, a poll by Probolsky Research using the judge’s re-write found 54 percent of voters actually supported the gas tax, compared to 35 percent opposed. Slightly more than half of Republicans supported the idea of a tax repeal.

Contrast that with a June poll by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies that described exactly how much more drivers would be paying at the pump. It found 58 percent of voters against the tax.

The GOP hopes to do a “patch test” of its tax repeal strategy via a different kind of recall, this one involving a Southern California lawmaker.

Earlier this year, DeMaio launched a recall drive against newly elected state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, a freshman Democrat who had unexpectedly defeated GOP Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang last year. DeMaio has said he targeted Newman in a “gazelle strategy,” to take down the most vulnerable Democrat for his support of the gas tax increase. Recalling Newman would likely also deprive Democrats of their supermajority in the Senate.

But the recall election hasn’t been certified because it’s bogged down in a legal fight.

A spokesman for Newman also accused paid signature collectors of deceiving voters into thinking they were supporting a gas tax repeal when they were in fact signing a petition just to recall Newman. “What the Republicans did will not only hurt their credibility with voters, but it will also make it harder for voters to trust what anyone is saying to them,” said Derek Humphrey.

“This is what people hate about politics.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters

Travis Allen Declares Victory in Gas Tax Repeal Lawsuit

 

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblyman Travis Allen announced that Judge Timothy Frawley of the Sacramento Superior Court gave the final ruling in favor of Allen’s request to rewrite the title and summary for the Repeal of the Gas Tax ballot initiative in a “true and impartial” manner.

“This is a huge win for the people of California. It’s outrageous that the Attorney General intentionally tried to mislead California voters in an effort enforce Jerry Brown’s massive $52 billion gas tax,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen. “California voters will now see a new ballot title and statement that truly represents what this initiative will do — repeal Jerry Brown’s massively unpopular gas tax.”

Ballot title and summary as written by Judge Frawley:

Travis Allen lawsuit 1

“We are ready to hit the ground running,” stated Assemblyman Travis Allen. “With this new ballot title and summary, the Repeal the Gas Tax Initiative will be ready to begin collecting the 365,880 signatures needed to place the repeal on the November 2018 ballot.  Californians can learn more about the effort by visiting www.NoCAGasTax.com,” concluded Allen.

Important excerpts from Judge Frawley’s final ruling:

Travis Allen lawsuit 2

 

Judge Frawley continued:

Further, as discussed above, while taxes and fees may be “income” to the state, they do not represent “income” to voters. An ordinary, reasonable voter is not likely to understand that.

The Attorney General’s summary does not “cure” the defects in the title. Rather, the misleading nature of the title “taints” the summary. Voters should not be put to the tast of trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when it is so unnecessary.

Enterprise Counsel Group ALC (ECG) is representing Assemblyman Allen. ECG is a business litigation, appeals and transactional firm in Irvine, CA that serves clients across the country.  ECG has extensive experience in successfully representing officeholders and candidates in election contests in local, state, and federal offices.  For further information, please contact Benjamin P. Pugh or Garrett M. Fahy at (949) 833-8550.

***You can read Assemblyman Allen’s op-ed in the Sacramento Bee on the issue here.

***Attached is the final ruling.

For more information, official initiative signature packets, and updates on the Gas Tax Repeal, please visit www.NoCAGasTax.com

Gas tax opponents say California is trying to undermine them

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Opponents of a gas tax increase passed this spring to pay for road repairs in California are on the verge of their first victory in a campaign to repeal the measure.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge tentatively ruled this week that state Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a misleading title and summary for an initiative to reverse the tax hike that Assemblyman Travis Allen is trying to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

“The court agrees with Petitioner that the Attorney General’s title and summary is confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure,” Judge Timothy M. Frawley wrote. “The problem with the Attorney General’s title and summary is that an ordinary, reasonable elector, who is otherwise unfamiliar with the initiative, would not be able to discern what the initiative would do.”

Allen, a Huntington Beach Republican, launched his repeal effort in May, a month after lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1. The $5.2 billion annual package, pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democratic leaders, raises the per-gallon tax on transportation fuels and creates a new vehicle registration fee to pay for road maintenance, public transit and other projects. …

Click here to read the full story

Travis Allen Wins Big in Preliminary Ruling in Gas Tax Repeal Lawsuit

Judge issues tentative ruling ordering Attorney General to not mislead voters and prepare a “true and impartial” title and summary for the Repeal of the Gas Tax ballot initiative

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblyman Travis Allen announced that the Sacramento Superior Court has issued a preliminary ruling granting his request that Attorney General Becerra rewrite his misleading title and summary for the Repeal the Gas Tax Initiative.

“This preliminary ruling is a major victory for Californians,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen. “This brings us one step closer to repealing Jerry Brown’s hugely unpopular gas tax. I look forward to the final ruling on Friday, and ensuring that the Repeal the Gas Tax Initiative receives the straightforward ballot title and summary that it deserves.”

Highlights from the preliminary ruling:

“The court agrees with Petitioner that the Attorney General’s title and summary is confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure.”

“The problem with the Attorney General’s title and summary is that an ordinary, reasonable elector, who is otherwise unfamiliar with the initiative, would not be able to discern what the initiative would do.”

“What the initiative would do is to repeal taxes and fees (legislation) expected to raise new revenues. But an ordinary voter reading the Attorney General’s title is highly unlikely to understand this. Rather, the ordinary voter would assume that the sole purpose of the measure is to eliminate (reduce) transportation funding. The title appears to be written to focus attention on the elimination of funding and avoid mentioning ‘taxes’ and ‘fees.’ This is misleading and is likely to create prejudice against the measure.”

“Petitioner’s [Travis Allen’s] proposal shows it is not difficult to write a summary of the initiative in clear and understandable language. And this does call into question why the Attorney General used the confusing language that he did.”

“To avoid misleading the voters and creating prejudice against the measure, the Attorney General must prepare a ‘true and impartial statement’ that reasonably informs voters of the character and real purpose of the proposed initiative in clear and understandable language. The existing circulating title and summary fails this test.”

Second Initiative Launched to Repeal Gas Tax

gas prices 2Anger over the increase in gas taxes has launched a second initiative to repeal the tax passed in April. Sources close to the drafting of this new measure say it will be well funded. Such a measure could have political implications beyond undoing the tax — one situation now and one if it makes the ballot.

Polls show strong opposition to the gas tax increase. A gas tax repeal measure could rally Republican voters to go to the polls during the 2018 General Election, especially if no Republican makes the runoff for either of the state’s high-profile offices, governor and United States senator.

The timing of the filing of this initiative is also interesting. News of the pushback against a previous tax increase comes at a time when legislators weigh another tax increase vote on Senate Bill 2, a document tax to pay for housing. A reminder that taxes are on the voters’ minds might play into the final legislative votes on SB2.

The new tax repeal effort is a short constitutional amendment that states that all gas taxes approved after January 1, 2017 must be approved by the electorate. While the taxes approved under SB1 take effect in November they would cease to be collected if the new initiative passes in 2018.

An earlier initiative filed by Assembly member Travis Allen is also designed to repeal the gas tax. That measure is awaiting a hearing in court over the wording of the title and summary written by Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Update: The SB2 tax plan passed the Assembly with no votes to spare

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California attorney general failing to create fair and objective initiative titles and summaries

xavier-becerraThe attorney general of California has the responsibility of preparing the “title and summary” for ballot measures to be submitted to the voters. Pursuant to that authority, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued the title and summary for one of the most anticipated ballot initiatives for the 2018 election. Here is his description: “Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.”

Confused? Try this excerpt from the ballot summary: “Eliminates Independent Office of Audits and Investigations, which is responsible for ensuring accountability in the use of revenue for transportation projects.”

If you have no clue that this is actually the initiative to repeal the gas tax you wouldn’t be alone. As drafted, the title and summary make every effort to hide the fact that the measure is targeting one of the most unpopular laws in recent California history. Though the words “gas” and “tax” are not in the ballot title, they do at least appear in the ballot summary. But they are followed by the suggestion that the initiative also acts to eliminate the Independent Office of Audits and Investigations — an office that does not yet exist.

This obvious effort at obfuscation, and ultimately voter confusion, flies in the face of a promise Becerra made during his confirmation hearing. Asked last January what he would do to ensure the objectivity of ballot titles and summaries, which is the constitutional responsibility of the attorney general to produce, Becerra testified that “the words I get to issue on behalf of the people of this state, will be the words that are operative to everyone.”

Becerra’s readiness, just months later, to depart from this approach in order to protect the gas tax — which was championed by his own party — is just the latest example of how attorneys general use their influence over the ballot to manipulate voters and advance the interests of their allies. To put an end to this damaging practice, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3, by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, was introduced earlier this year, a measure that would strip the attorney general of the power to write ballot titles and summaries, and transfer that authority over to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Unlike the attorney general, the Legislative Analyst is not a politician. A trusted source of impartial information since its creation in 1941, the LAO’s primary mission is to provide the state Legislature with reports on fiscal and policy issues. The office is also tasked with preparing the fiscal analysis for ballot initiatives, making it well suited for the responsibility of writing titles and summaries, too.

Since the introduction of ACA3, the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register have all endorsed the measure, arguing that, no matter the party in power, the temptation to manipulate a ballot initiative’s language is too great for an attorney general to resist.

Their concerns are supported by a long history of abuse that stretches back to at least 1966, when Attorney General Tom Lynch, tasked with describing the initiative to create a full-time Legislature, at first misleadingly framed it as a measure to raise legislative salaries. More recently, in 2013, Attorney General Kamala Harris drew criticism for describing public pension reform as the “elimination” of state constitutional protections for pensioners, using language that had been poll-tested by opponents of the initiative. Other examples abound, from both sides of the aisle.

The high stakes of the initiative process make any attempt at reform difficult, particularly when the party controlling the Legislature also holds the Attorney General’s Office. When ACA3 was brought before the Assembly Elections Committee earlier this year, the bill had the support of every major good government group in the state, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California. The only opposition was a representative from the Attorney General’s Office. Nevertheless, the bill failed 2-4 on a party-line vote, with one Democrat abstaining.

Initiatives are powerful tools of direct democracy, allowing the people of California to take direct control over the state’s political destiny when the Legislature has failed. But this is only possible when voters have an accurate description of what they are voting for. ACA3 would assure just that, and when it returns for consideration next year, we urge legislators on both sides to support this measure to redeem direct democracy in California.

Jon Coupal is the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Kevin Kiley represents California’s 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties. You can follow both on Twitter @joncoupal and @KevinKileyCA.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register. 

More shady politics from Sacramento Democrats

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, left, listens as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin del Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, urges lawmakers to approve a measure to change the rules governing recall elections, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Democratic lawmakers approved the bill that would let people rescind their signatures from recall petitions and let lawmakers weigh in on potential costs. Newman is facing a recall campaign over his vote to increase the gas tax. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Last week, the ostensibly nonpartisan California Fair Political Practices Commission agreed to remove a long-standing campaign contribution limit so that Democrats could better fight an upcoming recall election against one of their own. And you thought things were bad in Venezuela.

Earlier this year, frustrated taxpayers in Senate District 29 initiated a recall of state Sen. Josh Newman because of his vote to impose over $5 billion annually in new taxes on cars and gasoline. Within months, over 100,000 signatures were submitted in support of ousting Newman.

In a move to bolster Newman’s chances of surviving the impending recall, the Senate Democrats last month requested that the FPPC allow elected officials to contribute more than $4,400 — the legal limit — to Sen. Newman’s recall committee. Since 2003, the FPPC has maintained that the contribution limits that apply to candidate committees during regularly scheduled elections also apply to recall elections. In fact, back in 2008, that rule was applied against a Republican legislator, Jeff Denham, when he was fighting his own recall challenge. The justification for the limit is to prevent legislative leaders from using their power and influence over special-interest contributors to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could then be immediately transferred to the targeted legislator.

In response to the Democrats’ request, the FPPC’s own legal counsel reviewed the limit and concluded that the current interpretation is both “well-reasoned and legally sound.” However, in a 3-1 vote, the commission ignored its attorneys’ objection and gave preliminary approval to lift the contribution limit for recall candidates.

To be clear, many question both the efficacy and the constitutionality of political contribution limits. After reasoned debate, it may well be that the California Legislature would vote to lift the cap for future elections. But it is the method and timing of the revised interpretation that stinks.

First, the Democrats are hiding behind the FPPC. If they don’t like the contribution limits, they could simply pass a reform bill, which Gov. Brown would quickly sign. But, rather than be upfront about their political agenda, they asked their cohorts at the FPPC to do their dirty work for them via a regulatory amendment.

Second, and far more troubling, is the timing. If this particular contribution limit can’t be justified as advancing the public interest — and it may not be — why repeal it in a manner so transparently intended to help one particular political party, and one particular candidate? By not delaying the effective date of the regulatory change until some not-too-distant future election cycle, the FPPC loses the moral high ground, as well as the appearance of objectivity.

The upshot of this may not mean much. Sure, with lots more Democratic money to spend in the recall election, voters in the 29th Senate District will see their mailboxes filled to brim with misleading mailers, as well as nonstop radio commercials on every station, funded by special interests. But the anger on the part of working Californians over the massive tax increase, especially in Newman’s conservative district, is palpable — and even an unlimited supply of campaign cash may not be able to stave off voter wrath.

Nonetheless, the FPPC action is unseemly and wrong. Today, when cynicism over the political process is at an all-time high at both the national level and here in California, we should be assuring citizens that our democratic processes are fair and reflective of high standards of integrity. Unfortunately, the FPPC’s sudden rule change will only reinforce distrust on the part of voters.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register.

Republicans Will Sue Attorney General over ‘Misleading’ Gas Tax Repeal Language

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedRepublican advocates of a California ballot initiative to repeal the state’s new gas tax will sue Attorney General Xavier Becerra over language he issued describing the measure, which they say is “misleading” to voters.

The language, reported by the Los Angeles Times, says the referendum “eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.” Proponents of the repeal say that there is no way to be certain that the gas tax and new vehicle registration fees will be used to fix the state’s roads.

In addition, the Times notes, Becerra’s description says the referendum “Eliminates Independent Office of Audits and Investigations.” Advocates of the repeal note that the office, provided for in the gas tax law, does not yet exist.

The language in Becerra’s description must be provided by those gathering signatures for the referendum, and backers are concerned that the language of the description could dissuade some people from supporting the effort.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), who is leading the repeal effort and is running for governor in 2018, told the Times that “almost everything” in Becerra’s description of the referendum was misleading.

The battle over language is only the latest controversy in the fight over the gas tax. Democrats are trying to change the rules for recall elections to protect State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), who voted for the gas tax. (The Wall Street Journal accused them of “rigging the recall rules” to move the election from this fall to next June, when Democratic turnout is expected to be higher.) Democrats are also trying to remove campaign finance restrictions on legislators so that they can donate unlimited amounts of money to Newman’s effort to defend his seat in the recall. And Democrats are suing members of the California College Republicans who gathered signatures for the recall, alleging that the students misled voters by telling them that recalling Newman would mean repealing the gas tax.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

The reason why California taxes continue to skyrocket

TaxesBefore the ink on the governor’s signature has dried on the largest gas tax increase in California history, Sacramento Democrats are fully intending to break their promise to dedicate the new revenue to fixing our crumbling roads. In the upcoming budget, there is a proposal to divert 30 percent of this gas tax increase to items and programs completely unrelated to repairing our roads and highways, such as park maintenance and job training for felons.

Regrettably, these bait-and-switch tactics are now so commonplace in Sacramento that few notice. For many years, billions in transportation dollars have been diverted from road building and maintenance to the general fund, which has created the crisis we are currently facing. Why would anyone think things will be different now with the new $52 billion car and gas tax hikes?

There are many other examples of lawmakers misleading the public when promoting new taxes. Sacramento sold the recent tobacco tax increase on the November 2016 ballot to voters as a way to fund Medicaid. After the proposition passed, the revenues were simply swept into the general fund and, as a result, doctors and millions of Californians on Medicaid are not receiving the funds which they were anticipating.

Just last week, we witnessed the annual practice of passing 40 “shell” budget bills that are virtually devoid of written content. The blanks will be filled in as the majority party rams through all the deals it makes behind closed doors. Even with the passage of a new constitutional amendment — Proposition 54, discussed below — requiring bills to be in print for 72 hours, the sheer volume of budgetary language makes it difficult for the public and media to truly know how taxpayer dollars are to be spent.

Sacramento may not know how to manage money and prioritize spending, but legislative leaders do know how to dissemble and divert public attention from the reality of the budget process. They prefer to keep average folks in the dark because they know the public would never approve these budget diversions.

Voters clearly stated they prefer transparency and public participation when they approved Proposition 54 last year. The proposition requires that legislation be in print and available for public view for three days before being voted on. Majority lawmakers opposed this reasonable measure because it blocked them from introducing legislation and immediately passing it, without public comment, often in the dead of night. For Sacramento insiders, secrecy and deception are a way of life.

Californians deserve real budget transparency in order to change this broken process and to reform the bait-and-switch culture that has led to a state that has become simply unaffordable. Ultimately, it is middle class and working class families that are harmed the most by the bad policies coming out of Sacramento. Affordability is one of the biggest and most important issues facing this state, but we are moving in the wrong direction because new taxes and fees continue to be imposed in the false belief that more government and higher taxes are the answer.

It should surprise no one that California ranks dead last in the nation on budget transparency. This needs to change if we want the Legislature to change its focus to promoting the wellbeing of average Californians.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Vince Fong represents California’s 34th State Assembly district, which includes portions of Bakersfield and the communities of Bear Valley Springs, Oildale, Maricopa, Ridgecrest, Taft and Tehachapi.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register and the HJTA