Without Government Unions, there Would be No Gas Tax Increase

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105Nobody argues that California’s roads need huge upgrades. But the solution didn’t require the $0.12 per gallon tax hike that went into effect Nov. 1. The root cause of these neglected roads – and the reason even more taxes will never be enough to fix them – is the power of public sector unions, whose agenda is consistently at odds with the public interest. Let us count the ways.

1 – CalTrans mismanagement:

CalTrans could have done a much better job of maintaining California’s roads. One of the most diligent critics (and auditors) of CalTrans is state Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), the only CPA in California’s state legislature. Last year, Moorlach released a report on CalTrans which he summarized in “7-Step Fix for ‘Mismanaged’ Caltrans,” an article on his official website. Just a few highlights include the following:

  • In May 2014 the Legislative Analyst Office determined that CalTrans was overstaffed by 3,500 architects and engineers, costing over $500 million per year.
  • While to an average state transportation agency outsources over 50% of its work, CalTrans outsources only 10% of its work. Arizona and Florida outsource more than 80%.
  • 54% of CalTrans staff is at or near retirement age, so a hiring freeze would reduce staff merely through attrition, without requiring layoffs.

But Moorlach didn’t make explicit the reason CalTrans is mismanaged. It’s because the unions that run Sacramento don’t want to outsource CalTrans work. The unions don’t want to reduce CalTrans headcount, or hold CalTrans management accountable. Those actions might help Californians, but they would undermine union power.

2 – Bullet train boondoggle:

Money that could have been allocated to maintain and improve California’s roads is being squandered on a train that will do nothing to ameliorate California’s transportation challenges. A LOT of money. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, California’s freeways can be resurfaced and have a lane added in each direction at a cost of roughly $5.0 million per mile in rural areas, about twice that in urban areas.

Meanwhile, the latest estimate for California’s “bullet train,” is $98 billion (that’s $245 million per mile), thanks to construction delays, and design challenges including nearly 50 miles of tunnels through seismically active mountains to the north and south. And hardly anyone is going to ride it. Ridership won’t even pay operating costs. But Sacramento pushes ahead with this monstrous waste when that same money could (at the urban price of $10 million per mile) resurface and add a lane in each direction to 10,000 miles of California’s freeways. Imagine smooth, unclogged roads. It’s not impossible. It’s just policy priorities.

But while bad roads destroy the chassis of millions of cars and trucks, and commuters endure stop-and-go traffic year after year, the California High Speed Rail Authority dutifully pushes on. Why?

Because that’s what the government employee unions want. They don’t want roads, with all the flexibility and autonomy that roads offer. They want to create a gigantic high-speed rail empire, with tens of thousands of new public employees to drive the trains, maintain the trains, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But all of them will be members of public sector unions.

3 – All rapid transit boondoggles:

In a handful of very dense urban areas around the U.S., fast intercity trains make economic sense. But most light rail schemes, along with laughably absurd “streetcar” schemes that actually block urban lanes sorely needed by vehicles, do not achieve levels of ridership that even begin to justify their construction when the alternative is using that money for better, wider connector roads and freeways. The impact of ride sharing apps, the advent of non-polluting cars, and the option of using buses to accomplish mass transit goals all speak to the superior versatility of roads over rail for urban transportation.

So why do California’s cities continue to poor billions into light rail and streetcars, when that money could be used to unclog the roads?

To reiterate: The public sector unions that run California want tens of thousands of new public employees to operate the trains and streetcars, maintain them, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But doing this means that public sector union membership – hence public sector union power – will increase.

4 – CEQA reform so people can live closer to the jobs:

The median home value in the United States today is $202,700. The median home value in California today is $509,600, 2.5 times as much! There is no shortage of land in California, and the alleged shortages of energy and water are self-inflicted as the result of policies enacted by California’s state legislature. But instead of reforming California’s Environmental Quality ActSB 375AB 32, and countless other laws that have made building homes in California nearly impossible, California’s legislature is doubling down on more government solutions – primarily to subsidize either extremely high density housing, or subsidized housing for the economically disadvantaged, or both.

None of this is necessary. Outside of California’s major urban centers, there is no reason homes cannot be profitably built and sold at a median price of $202,700, and there is no reason the people living in those homes cannot drive or ride share to work on fast, unclogged freeways.

But California’s public sector unions want more regulations on home building, and they want more subsidized public housing. Because those solutions, even though inadequate and coercive, enable them to hire vast new bureaucracies to enforce the many regulations and administer the public assets. Unleashing the private sector to build affordable homes in a competitive market would rob these unions of their opportunity to acquire more power. It’s that simple.

5 – Insatiable appetite for pension fund contributions:

According to a California Policy Center study, taking barely adequate annual employer pension contributions into account, the average unionized state/local government worker in California makes over $120,000 per year in pay and benefits. But to adequately fund their promised pension benefits, employers will need to pay at least another $20,000 per employee to the pension funds. This funding gap, which equates to over $20 billion per year, is the additional amount that is required to cover the difference between how much California’s public employee pension funds currently collect from taxpayers, and how much they need to collect to keep the promises that union controlled politicians have made to the government unions they “negotiate” with. That is a best-case scenario.

It could be much worse. A 2016 California Policy Center analysis (ref. table 2-C) estimated that under a worst-case scenario, the annual costs to fund California’s public employee pension funds could cost taxpayers nearly $70 billion more per year than they are currently paying.

And by the way, California’s pension funds are themselves almost entirely under the control of public sector unions – research the background of CalPERS and CalSTRS board directors to verify the degree of influence they have. Absent significant reform, funding California’s public employee pensions is going to continue to consume every dollar in new taxes for the next several decades. The cumulative financial impact of funding these pensions is easily triple that of the bullet train’s $100 billion fiasco, probably much more.

Let’s not mince words. Government unions control California. They collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year, and spend most of that money on either explicit political campaigning and lobbying, or soft advocacy via expensive public relations campaigns and sponsored academic studies. Their presence is felt everywhere, from local transit districts to the governor’s office. They make or break politicians at will, by outspending or outlasting their opponents. At best, California’s most powerful corporate players do not cross these unions, often they collude with them.

California’s public sector unions operate as senior partners in a coalition that includes left-wing oligarchs especially in the Silicon Valley, extreme environmentalists and their powerful trial lawyer cohorts, and the Latino Legislative Caucus – usurped by leftist radicals – and their many allies in the social justice/identity politics industry. The power of this government union led coalition is nearly absolute, and the consequences to California’s private sector working class have been nothing short of devastating.

Government unions force California’s agencies to over-hire, overpay, and mismanage, because that benefits their members even as it harms the public. These unions enforce absurd policy priorities that further harm the public in order to increase their power. They are the reason California has increased its gas tax.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

REFERENCES

Pump bump: California drivers to pay 12 cents more per gallon starting Wednesday – San Jose Mercury, Oct. 31, 2017
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/31/pump-bump-california-drivers-to-pay-12-cents-more-per-gallon-starting-wednesday/

California’s gas tax increases Wednesday – Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-gas-tax-increase-political-battle-20171031-story.html

How much you’ll REALLY pay in gasoline tax in California – San Diego Union Tribune, Apr. 23, 2017
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-california-gastax-20170413-story.html

What Californians Could Build Using the $64 Billion Bullet Train Budget – California Policy Center, Mar. 21, 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-californians-could-build-using-the-64-billion-bullet-train-budget/

American Road and Transportation Builders Association – FAQs, ref. “How much does it cost to build a mile of road?
https://www.artba.org/about/faq/

High-Speed Rail Delay More than Triples Planned Cost to San Jose – San Jose Inside, Oct. 2, 2017
http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2017/10/02/high-speed-rail-delay-more-than-triples-planned-cost-to-san-jose/

A 13.5-mile tunnel will make or break California’s bullet train – Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-train-tunnel-20171021-story.html

California Environmental Quality Act – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Environmental_Quality_Act

State Senate bills aim to make homes more affordable, but they won’t spur nearly enough construction – Los Angeles Times, Aug. 11, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-state-housing-deal-effects-20170811-htmlstory.html

California’s Public Sector Compensation Trends – California Policy Center, Jan. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/californias-public-sector-compensation-trends/

What is the Average Pension for a Retired Government Worker in California? – California Policy Center, Mar. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-is-the-average-pension-for-a-retired-government-worker-in-california/

The Coming Public Pension Apocalypse, and What to Do About It – California Policy Center, May 2016
http://californiapolicycenter.org/the-coming-public-pension-apocalypse/

California Gas Prices Now Officially Highest in America

As of Nov. 7, GasBuddy.com puts the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $3.231 in California, nearly 8 cents per gallon more expensive than the next-most-expensive state, Hawaii.

Left-leaning Politifact California notes that California’s rapid rise to the top spot fulfills the prediction of Republican George Runner, who serves on the State Board of Equalization, and who warned in April that the gas tax would make California’s gas the nation’s most expensive.

Politifact writes:

Republican George Runner predicted in April that California’s gas tax hike would catapult the Golden State’s already high fuel prices to the “highest in the nation,” after the increase went into effect on Nov. 1, 2017.

It appears his prediction was spot on. …

A spokesman for Runner, who is a former state lawmaker and sits on the state’s Board of Equalization, told us by email: “We are saddened that George’s prediction was correct so soon.”

Politifact notes that there are other factors in California’s high price, such as a “mystery surcharge” of 20 cents per gallon that was applied after a refinery explosion in Southern California.

However, it notes that California surged past Hawaii on Nov. 3, a mere two days after the new gas tax went into effect.

Republicans are mustering their political forces to campaign for a referendum overturning the gas tax in 2018. They are also targeting freshman Democrat State Senator Josh Newman of Fullerton, who voted for the new tax and who will now face a recall election next year.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

Politicians try to mask pain of gas tax hike

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedHave you ever had a tooth extracted without Novocain or some other pain killer? When facing something painful, it’s always helpful to apply a numbing agent and, when administered by competent medical personnel, anesthesia provides effective relief. But when politicians try to mask pain, be skeptical.

The 12 cent increase in California’s gas tax which took effect this week has garnered a great deal of media attention, much of it negative. That explains why California Democrats have tried to mask the pain of the tax hike.

In perhaps their most deceptive move ever, California Democrats chose the same day that gas prices traditionally go down by 12 cents to increase them by 12 cents. Nov. 1 was the first day California’s cheaper “winter blend” gas can be sold which costs about 12 cents less a gallon. Nov. 1 was also the day that the 12 cent per gallon tax goes into effect statewide.

But this is just phase one of a yearly $5 billion tax hike on California families.

The largest gas tax hike in state history means drivers will pay a total of 50 cents a gallon in taxes to the state when they fill up. By 2019 it will have risen to 57 cents a gallon. Diesel truck drivers are getting hit too. Their price per gallon will jump 20 cents a gallon and will also include a 4 percent sales tax increase. Note that these figures do not include the excise tax from the federal government, another 18 cents per gallon.

Phase two will hit when you re-register your vehicle next year. The average driver will pay $50 more than last year due to a brand new “transportation improvement fee,” though some could pay up to $175. Electric car owners aren’t off the hook either. They’ll pay $100 more a year to register starting in 2020. …

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

California Gas-Tax Hike Hits Today

gas prices 2Call it the Stealth Gas-Tax Increase. Today California’s gas tax increases about 12 cents a gallon to pay for the newly budgeted $5.2 billion a year in supposed road repairs which the Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed last April.

But few motorists will notice it. That’s because every Nov. 1 the state switches to what’s called the winter blend of gas, which is about 10 cents cheaper than the summer blend mandated from April 1 to Oct. 31. The summer blend costs more because it adds refinery steps to reduce pollution during the year’s hot, smoggy months.

The usual 10-cent reduction will be erased this year by the 12-cent increase, so the resulting 2-cent increase overall will hardly be on your radar. For a 15-gallon fill-up, it’s just 30 cents.

The “seeming” increase of 2 cents a gallon will appear to be a slight incline in cost for rebuilding the state’s roads, which TRIP, a national transportation research group, ranks as the worst in the nation.

But this respite from the nation’s highest gas taxes won’t last long.

The big impact will hit next April 1, when gas prices will have risen not just the 10 cents extra for the summer blend of gas, but also for the additional 12 cents for the new gas tax. Total: 22 cents per gallon. But of course, by then people for five months will have gotten used to the new, stealthy 12-cent gas tax. So they may only “feel” like gas went up 10 cents a gallon, as it always does on April 1.

Yet the new tax will be a collision to people’s wallets. Assume this for an average California family. Both spouses work. Together, they use 40 gallons a week driving to and from work, taking the kids to and from school and soccer practice and performing various errands. So the 12-cent new stealth tax totals $4.80 a week, or about $250 a year.

But what if the family, due to high housing costs, must commute long distances to work – say from Riverside to Orange County or Los Angeles. Then the cost of the stealth tax could rise to $500 or more a year.

But that’s not all. There’s also an additional Transportation Improvement Fee, which is really a tax, just to register your jalopy, bumping this annual ritual $25 to $175 a year, but averaging about $50.

All this detoured money could have gone for healthier food, schoolbooks, a college tuition savings plan, or just recreation for a family that works too long paying all the taxes that already hit them.

And there’s no guarantee the money will actually fix the roads the family drives on. The stealth taxes could be car-jacked during a recession, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did with earlier tax hikes for transportation during the 2008-10 Great Recession. With the state’s pension crisis accelerating, I predict the new taxes will be too tempting a target for a future Legislature and governor.

Indeed, even the new taxes paid at the gas pump will not fully go to fix the roads the cars ride on. According to the Legislative Analyst, $270 million will go to the transit and intercity rail program, $44 million to commuter rail and intercity rail, $100 million to bicycle and pedestrian projects and $108 million for parks and agriculture. And train and bus ridership is declining.

Although today’s tax increase is stealthy, its effect on the personal budgets of Californians will be substantial. And the state’s national reputation for fiscal irresponsibility continues out of control. It’s time to hit the brakes!

John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, is a state senator representing the 37th District.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

John Moorlach – Scary Week Ahead

Early this week, Californians will enjoy two major events. On Tuesday, they will participate in handing out candy to the children in their neighborhoods for Halloween. The next day, Sacramento will provide its own version of “trick or treat” by increasing the gas tax. It should be a scary week.

Sacramento is to blame for neglecting the roads in California. Instead of addressing the symptoms, like bad management, budgeting and hiring, the majority party focused its attention on raising taxes (again!).

I have tried to research California’s Department of Transportation since I was elected on March 17, 2015.  The metrics suck. And my attempts to fix them have been voted down by the Democrats (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Boondoggles).

A gas tax increase presents a real problem to a good number of Californians. Those who are wealthy and living near the coast won’t even notice. But, the following sampling of people will:

  • The 20 percent-plus of the population that are living at or below the poverty level (the highest percentage for any state in the nation – after four decades of Democrat control of the Legislature).
  • Those who have lengthy commutes into Orange County because they found affordable housing in the Inland Empire. Add to this those that commute great distances to get to their jobs in Silicon Valley. (And Sacramento wonders why its roads are in disrepair.)
  • Those who are spending nearly half of their disposable income on housing, thanks to increasing rents and home prices.

Expect plenty of editorials on the November 1st gas tax increase over the next few days.  Click here to read the article by the Napa Valley Register.

GOP ramps up effort to repeal California gas tax increase

As reported by CBS8.com:

Republicans’ latest effort to repeal California’s upcoming gas tax increase got a boost Wednesday from members of Congress and GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who said he would spend “significant” money to help put the initiative on next year’s ballot.

“We can’t keep making this state unaffordable for working people and expect people to stay,” Cox said at a news conference at the California Republican Party’s headquarters.

It’s the second Republican initiative aimed at repealing the tax increase, passed by lawmakers this year to generate $52 billion over 10 years for road and bridge repairs. The gas tax will go up by 12 cents per gallon in November, and diesel taxes will spike as well. The other repeal effort is backed by Assemblyman Travis Allen — Cox’s competitor for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Both initiatives aim to repeal the tax increase, but the Cox-backed effort will also include a constitutional amendment that requires any future gas and car tax increases to win voter approval.

Republicans view the tax increase as a highly unpopular move that will draw voters from across California to the polls in the midterm election. Democrats plan to aggressively target seven California Republicans who serve in districts that voted Democratic in the presidential election. …

Click here to read the full article

Gas Tax Senator Recall Clears Legal Hurdle

As reported by the L.A. Times: 

Of the more than 70,600 voters who signed petitions to hold a recall vote on state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, only 849 asked that their signatures be withdrawn by the deadline, clearing a major hurdle for an election on whether to oust the Democratic lawmaker, officials said Tuesday.

Opponents of the recall needed to get more than 7,000 voters to withdraw their signatures to deprive supporters of the 63,593 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, under a new system approved recently by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that slows down the process.

“Sen. Josh Newman has spent months lying to his constituents by claiming people were duped into signing the recall petition against him, and with today’s tally, he has been unmasked again as a pathological liar who is unfit to hold office,” said Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist heading the recall drive. “We eagerly look forward to voters having a chance to vote him out for his lies and his decision to increase the gas tax.”

Newman won a close contest last November in a district formerly represented by a Republican. He was targeted for recall by Republican activists for voting in April for a $52-billion transportation plan that raises gas taxes and imposes a new annual vehicle fee. A successful recall would deprive Democrats of a supermajority in the Senate. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

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:

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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