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Special Interests Spend Big To Save California Gas Tax
Gas tax enthusiasts outspend opponents 4-to-1 in battle to convince California voters to keep a $5.1 billion increase.

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Pro-motorist groups looking to overturn California's $5.1 billion gasoline tax hike are facing an uphill battle. The forces allied in support of Proposition 6, which reverses the gas tax increase, are being outspent 4-to-1 by a coalition consisting of the construction industry, labor unions, local government lobbyists and well-funded transit advocates. Voters will head to the polls November 6 after being barraged by ads warning of the dangers of cutting back on spending.

In 2017, the Democratic-controlled legislature increased the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and raised the annual vehicle registration fee to a maximum of $175 per year. In the nation's most populous state, that adds up to $54 billion in revenue over the course of a decade. A significant chunk of the funds raised from drivers would not be used to "fix the roads." Instead, money would be diverted to transit initiatives, including $1 billion off the top that must be set aside for transit. Many of the projects that are labeled as road projects are actually Vision Zero initiatives that restrict traffic lanes in a bid to make transit more attractive.

Opponents of Proposition 6 insist the initiative is an expensive attack on bridge and road safety.

"Proposition 6 will cost motorists more in the long run," the opponents wrote in the official ballot pamphlet sent to voters. "The average driver spends $739 per year on vehicle expenses like front end alignments, shocks and tire repairs caused by bad roads."

The 95.5 cents per gallon in total gasoline taxes that Californians pay at the pump is already the second highest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. Proponents of Proposition 6 argue that money is not being well spent.

"Seventy-two percent of all state motor vehicle related taxes and fees collected by the state are used for programs other than streets, roads and highways," proponents wrote in the ballot pamphlet. "It's time to end the transportation funding shell game."

In addition to repealing the gas tax hike, Proposition 6 would also end the "transportation improvement" fee on car registration and require all new fuel and vehicle taxes to be approved by voters. The changes will take effect if a majority of voters approve the proposition. California officials used their authority to re-write the ballot initiative's title to remove any mention of the gas tax. Proposition 6 is now called the "Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for Those Purposes" initiative.

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