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

Gov. Brown signs bill OKing $52 billion tax to fix state roads

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Friday a bill that will raise $52 billion in new taxes and fees to pay for the state’s roads and bridges.

Brown signed SB1, as he was expected to, without any fanfare or ceremony. He also gave final approval to two companion bills that were needed to lure reluctant lawmakers to support the transportation bill.

Under SB1 the state’s gas excise tax, which is currently 18 cents, will increase by 12 cents per gallon. The excise tax on diesel fuel, which is used by the commercial trucking industry, will increase by 20 cents a gallon to 36 cents. The diesel sales tax also will rise to 5.75 percent from 1.75 percent. Those increases begin Nov. 1.

Beginning Jan. 1, vehicle registration fees will increase by $25 to $175 depending on the value of the vehicle. Owners of zero-emission vehicles will begin paying an additional $100 annual fee beginning in 2020. …

Click here to read the full article

The hidden costs of gas-tax legislation

gas prices 2For the last three weeks this column has focused on both the policies and politics of the $5.2 billion annual transportation tax increase. In the unlikely event that some have forgotten — or were on another planet — the taxes include a substantial hike in the car tax as well as a 12 cent increase in the gas tax.

However, as one might hear in a low-budget, late-night television ad, “But wait, there’s more!” Specifically, the gas-tax hike which politicians tell us is 12 cents per gallon — which is bad enough — in actuality could be as high as 19 cents gallon. How is that possible?

The explanation is a bit complicated but important to understand. It involves a convoluted process known as the “gas tax swap” passed by the Legislature and implemented by the California Board of Equalization in 2010.

The gas tax swap eliminated the state sales tax on gasoline and replaced it with what was supposed to be a revenue-neutral per-gallon excise tax. This made it more legally defensible for the state to repay Proposition 1B transportation bond debt when California was in the midst of recession. The BOE was tasked with adjusting the numbers every year in a “backward looking” process so that California would collect no more revenue from the excise tax than it would have collected from the sales tax had it not been eliminated.

But here’s the kicker: The tax hike just jammed through the Legislature in less than one week by Senate Bill 1 contains a provision that, beginning in July of 2019, adjusts the base excise tax to what it was in July 2010 when the gas tax swap started. Currently, the excise tax on gas is 27.8 cents a gallon. But in July of 2010 it was 35.3 cents a gallon. So as it stands right now, that’s a seven cents per gallon increase, on top of the new 12 cents per gallon tax.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Did Sacramento break the law in transportation tax rush?

los-angeles-freewaysDid lawmakers break the law when they passed Senate Bill 1, the transportation tax increase?

There’s a quaint provision in the California Constitution that reads, “A person who seeks to influence the vote or action of a member of the Legislature in the member’s legislative capacity by bribery, promise of reward, intimidation, or other dishonest means, or a member of the Legislature so influenced, is guilty of a felony.”

By the time Gov. Jerry Brown finished twisting arms and greasing palms to pass a massive transportation tax hike, that antique language was on the curb like a broken grandfather clock waiting for a bulky-item pickup.

Brown and legislative leaders promised a billion dollars for specific local projects in the districts of wavering lawmakers, and one termed-out Republican senator made a deal for a law to protect people in his profession — civil engineering, not the profession you’re thinking of — from liability in construction lawsuits.

It’s not easy to prove a quid pro quo, Latin meaning “something for something.” People don’t typically leave a written record that says, “I’ll vote for this if you vote for that.”

But one thing is different this time. In November, California voters passed Proposition 54, a measure aimed at guaranteeing transparency in state lawmaking. Prop. 54 says bills must be in print and online in their final form 72 hours before the Legislature votes on them.

The transportation tax increase, SB1, was posted online on April 3. If the Legislature was going to meet its self-imposed deadline to pass the bill on April 6, not one word of it could be changed before the vote.

So all the wheeling, dealing, greasing, and “promise of reward” had to go into a separate bill.

And it did.

SB132 contains a billion dollars of “that” which was negotiated in exchange for a vote on “this.”

Not only is it in writing, there are many statements on the record from lawmakers that their vote for the transportation tax was explicitly tied to a promise from the governor and legislative leaders that the “thats” would be delivered.

Are the deals spelled out in SB132 a violation of the law under Proposition 54? They are effectively amendments to SB1 that were written into a different bill. If that’s legal, then the 72-hour requirement that voters just added to the state constitution has already been thrown to the curb with the rest of the grandfather clocks.

Before the truck comes to pick up the garbage, we should retrieve that language about bribery and reward and see if it applies to outgoing Sen. Anthony Cannella’s deal to condition his vote for SB1 on the passage of SB496, a bill Cannella authored to protect “design professionals,” including civil engineers, from lawsuits stemming from future work. “Anthony is a civil engineer,” Cannella’s official bio states.

Maybe you’re thinking it won’t pass. He was ahead of you. Language was added to the billion-dollar spending bill, SB132, to make it “operative” only if SB496 is enacted.

In addition to the billion dollars of “reward” written into SB132 on April 6, the bill was amended on April 5 to add $1 billion for “augmented employee compensation.”

Yes, another $1 billion of “compensation increases and increases in benefits” for state workers was slipped in while everyone was wondering where the state spent all our transportation taxes.

Talk about being taken for a ride.

Susan Shelley is a columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

More sleight of hand with gas tax hikes

gas prices 2If Gov. Brown and members of the California Legislature think that the backlash against the car and gas tax increases will subside any time soon, they are mistaken. The controversy continues to dominate both traditional and social media and, in fact, the more that taxpayers learn about these transportation tax hikes the angrier they get.

Our political elites are learning that taxes on cars and gasoline remain very unpopular because they fall disproportionately on the working Californians — which is where the majority of voters reside. And the resentment might only grow when the taxes actually kick. Just wait until the bills from the DMV start showing up in the mail starting in January of next year and the gas tax increase starts even earlier in November of this year.

There are times when Californians are simply resigned to pay higher taxes imposed by Sacramento, but this might not be one of those times. Many are calling for a referendum of the tax hikes only to be disappointed with the news that, under the California Constitution, a tax increase can’t be repealed via a referendum. Nonetheless, it is possible that the tax package can be rolled back via an initiative and some groups are pondering that course of action. Other interests want more immediate action and are openly discussing recall efforts against some legislators who supported the tax package. …

To read the entire column, please click here.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

17-Cent Gas Tax Hike on the Horizon

gas prices 2The Democratic member who has led the push in the Assembly for a gas tax hike to pay for transportation improvements is teaming with the Democratic senator who has played the same role in his chamber. And the pair want to be far bolder that Gov. Jerry Brown was in his 2015 proposal.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, propose a 17 cent per gallon tax increase to fund a $7.4 billion transportation program, with likely additional annual hikes after adoption because the rate is indexed to inflation. They also want to increase the tax on diesel fuels by 30 cents a gallon, with the same indexing provision, and to make it easier to get approvals for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Brown’s proposal — which went nowhere in a special session — was built on a 6 cent per gallon tax increase and other provisions that would have funded a $3.6 billion transportation plan.

Bitterness over 2010 gas tax swap hangs over debate

The huge problem facing any proposal to raise taxes of this sort is the need for two-thirds approval, which means Republican votes in both the Assembly and Senate are necessary. And Democrats lobbying for GOP support don’t just have to overcome traditional Republican opposition to higher taxes. There continues to be deep bitterness over the gas tax swap that GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers pulled off in 2010 to plug a $1.8 billion hole in the 2010-11 budget. Republicans aware of this history would struggle to believe that the tax hikes that Frazier and Beall seek for road repairs might not at some future date be used to pay for state salaries, pensions or other needs unrelated to potholes and aging bridges.

The background: Irate over previous diversions of gasoline sales taxes from road repairs to other uses, California voters twice this century passed ballot measures — Proposition 42 in 2002 and Proposition 1A in 2006 — that banned such use of gas sales tax revenue.

But gasoline excise taxes can be spent on general fund obligations. So in 2010, gas excise taxes were sharply raised and gas sales taxes sharply reduced. Because the move was revenue-neutral, Schwarzenegger and Democrats successfully argued that the maneuver only needed to pass on a simple majority vote — not the two-thirds vote needed for tax hikes.

As a result, each year, the state Board of Equalization announces whether it is raising or cutting state excise taxes on gasoline to honor the deal’s requirement that the 2010 gas tax swap be roughly revenue-neutral.

Recent coverage of the Frazier-Beall initiative has not detailed whether the 17 cent per gallon tax hike would be entirely in the gas sales tax or entirely in the gas excise tax or a combination of increases in each.  If it were in the gas sales tax, that would nominally mean the money could only be spent on road repairs and infrastructure improvement because of Propositions 42 and 1A. But another gas tax swap could enable the money to be diverted to the general fund by a simple majority of the Legislature in the future, at least if the governor was amenable.

Republican lawmakers are also likely to be wary of another part of the Democratic lawmakers’ proposal: a $165 yearly fee for owners of zero-emission vehicles to help pay for road improvements. While that’s higher than what most states with such fees charge, it’s only half of what the average U.S. car owner pays in gas taxes a year, according to data from 2013.

The argument that zero-emission vehicles should pay more toward road maintenance is dismissed by greens who cite the environmental benefits of the vehicles. But as such vehicles become more common — and as states push gas taxes higher — owners of regular vehicles and free-market advocates are likely to cry foul.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Gas tax hike of 17 cents per gallon part of new transportation funding plan

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Two Democratic lawmakers unveiled a $7.4-billion transportation plan late Wednesday, the latest effort to break through a yearlong logjam over the state’s funding woes.

The plan, highlighted by an increase of 17 cents per gallon in the gas tax, comes from Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) and Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) in an attempt to unify the disparate proposals the pair had previously introduced in their respective houses.

The combined plan is more than double Gov. Jerry Brown’s $3.6-billion proposal, which calls for a 6-cent gas tax hike.

“We need to be able to have a big plan to be able to be effective and catch back up,” Frazier said.

Last summer, Brown called a special session of the Legislature to highlight the $130-billion backlog in state and local road repairs, as well as the billions more in other transportation budget deficits. But lawmakers have made little progress, especially with gas tax hikes — which would require a bipartisan supermajority vote — on the table. …

Click here to read the full story

CA lowers gas tax

As reported by The Hill:

California is lowering the amount of money drivers in the state will have to pay at the pump to help pay for transportation projects, The Associated Press reports.

The California Board of Equalization has voted to lower the state’s excise tax on gas purchases from 30 cents per gallon to 27.8, according to the report.

Drivers in California are charged an additional 10.62 cents per gallon in other taxes on their fuel purchases, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API).

California’s fuel levy is collected on top of an 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax that is charged to all drivers in the nation to fill the federal government’s transportation funding coffers. …

Click here to read the full article

Steyer says state oil tax ‘looking less likely’ for 2016

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said it’s increasingly unlikely he will follow through with threats to put an oil-extraction tax on next year’s ballot, but he still expects to help bankroll other measures.

While he hasn’t formally closed the book on the oil tax or related transparency measure aimed at oil companies, Steyer said his team has yet to accomplish everything he said needs to happen to qualify and ultimately pass a statewide initiative next year. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down for prospective proponents.

“It’s looking less likely, I would say,” he said after an event Thursday in Sacramento.

Steyer, an early supporter and co-chairman of a campaign to raise the cigarette tax by $2 a pack, said he plans to get behind a couple of other efforts once the election picture is clear.