Group submits nearly one million signatures to repeal gas tax hike

SAN DIEGO — Supporters of a effort to repeal California’s recent gas tax increase submitted thousands of petition signatures Monday in San Diego in hopes of getting the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Repeal organizer and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio stood beside piles of boxes containing the petitions before he and his supporters submitted them to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office.

“The cost of living is already on the increase in California and families are struggling to survive. This is unacceptable,” he said. “Gov. Jerry Brown and his special interests … need to prepare themselves. We’re coming and we’re taking back our money.”

DeMaio’s group contends it has collected more than 940,000 signatures in support of a repeal. State law requires 584,000 signatures to bring the issue to ballot.

DeMaio said 203,941 signatures were collected in San Diego County alone, and he claimed that was the most ever gathered in the county for a statewide initiative.

“San Diego rocked it out — the intensity of volunteer support and enthusiasm for the repeal down here was significant,” DeMaio said.

California’s gas tax increase went into effect in November. It raised fuel prices by 12.5 cents per gallon and diesel prices by 20 cents per gallon. Annual vehicle fees also increased $25 to $175.

The increases are expected to generate more than $5 billion per year. Revenue will be used to chip away at a growing backlog of state transportation infrastructure projects.

Democrats who backed the increase said they believed it was the best way to handle a $137 billion backlog of road repairs.

“Safe and smooth roads make California a better place to live and strengthen our economy,” Gov. Jerry Brown said when he signed the tax increase bill. “This legislation will put thousands of people to work.”

The increase was expected to raise more than $5 billion for transportation costs annually.

Repeal supporters say the new taxes will cost $700 more per family, per year, and there’s no guarantee the money will actually go to transportation.