Gas tax protesters begin gathering signatures

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SAN DIEGO — Backers of an initiative to repeal the recent increase to the gas tax and vehicle registration fee began gathering signatures Monday in San Diego.

Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio and Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox appeared at a kickoff event outside the studios of KOGO-AM (600). They said the hike will cost $700 annually per family, with no guarantee the revenue will be used for its intended purpose.

“Sacramento politicians really crossed the line with these massive car and gas tax hikes and we intend to give taxpayers the chance to reverse that decision with this initiative,” said DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, a political action committee that opposes tax increases and proposes efficiency reforms to fix problems.

SB 1, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on April 28, increased the gasoline excise tax by 12 cents a gallon, the diesel fuel excise tax 20 cents per gallon, the sales tax on diesel to 5.75 percent, and raised the vehicle registration fee by $25 to $175, depending on the value of the vehicle on Jan. 1.

Brown said the revenue from the tax and registration fee increases will be used to repair roads, highways and bridges and improve public transportation.

Fix Our Roads, a coalition of business, labor and transportation organizations, supported the bill.

“California drivers will have safer, less congested roads thanks to SB 1,” according to the coalition. “Every single community in California will receive funding to make road safety improvements, fill potholes, and repair local streets, freeways, bridges and overpasses. And SB 1 comes with strict accountability requirements to reduce bureaucracy and ensure funds only go to transportation.”

DeMaio called the claims by Brown and Fix Our Roads that the money would be guaranteed to go to transportation-related projects a “bag of lies … being peddled by the same politicians who raided our gas tax funds for years and diverted the funds away from road repairs.”

“Not one single penny of the gas tax hike is earmarked for roads and the money comes with zero guarantees,” DeMaio said. “Quite the opposite, SB 1 prohibits road capacity expansion.”

Valid signatures from 585,407 registered voters — 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2014 general election  — must be submitted by May 21 to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.