California judge revises description of gas tax repeal ballot initiative

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California gas tax repeal

A judge changed the description of a ballot initiative to repeal a law that increases gas tax in California. Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote the original title and summary of the ballot initiative.

On Monday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley said Becerra’s description of the ballot initiative was fundamentally flawed.

Becerra’s original ballot title stated, “Eliminates Recently-Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for those Purposes.”

Based on the title, the ballot initiative aims to eliminate transportation funding by repealing revenues. However, that was not accurate. Its objective is to repeal the huge increase in gas tax, diesel taxes, and vehicle fees. It also aims to eliminates transportation program funded by those fees and taxes.

In his preliminary ruling last week, Judge Frawley said the ballot description was “misleading.” Voters unfamiliar with the ballot initiative will not understand its real objective. He noted that the words “tax” and “fees” were missing in the title. The judge decided to rewrite the ballot description.

The highest gas tax increase in the history of California

Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen proposed the ballot initiative, which aims “repeal the highest gas tax increase” in the history of California.

Governor Jerry Brown

On April 28, Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law SB 1 also known as Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.  The recently enacted law authorizes tax increases on diesel and gas starting on January 1, 2018.

The excise tax on gas will increase $0.12 while $0.20 on diesel. The sales tax on diesel will also increase by 5.75%.  In addition, drivers will pay a new annual vehicle fee between $25 and $175. The fee depends on the value of the car. The fee on zero-emission vehicles will be $100.

Judge removes phrase “repealing revenues”

In his final ruling, Judge Frawley said Becerra removed the confusing phrase “repealing revenues” but the ballot title is still flawed. He pointed out that Becerra used the confusing term “revenues” to refer to “taxes and fees.”

According to the judge, the attorney general argued that the term “revenues” is “more accurate.” Judge Frawley described Becerra’s argument “remarkable” since the SB 1 raises new “revenues” solely by increasing taxes and fees.”

Judge Frawley pointed out, “The initiative would repeal those taxes and fees and only those taxes and fees—no other revenues. Thus, the terms taxes and fees are precise.”

Furthermore, the judge emphasized that “taxes and fees may be income to the state” but “do not represent income to voters.”

The new title of ballot initiative written by Judge Frawley reads:

“Repeals Recently-Enacted Gas and Diesel Taxes and Vehicle Registration Fees.  Eliminates Road Repair and Transportation Programs Funded by these Taxes and Fees.”

A big win for California

California Assemblyman Travis Allen

In a statement, Assemblyman Allen commented, “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.”

He added that voters will now understand the true objective of the ballot initiative—repeal the governor’s “massively unpopular gas tax.”