Proposition 6, on the November ballot, proposes to repeal the Road Repair and Accountability Act (Senate Bill 1) enacted into law by the Legislature on April 28, 2017.
RRAA increased transportation-related taxes and fees, including the gas excise tax, diesel excise tax and diesel sales tax, and was designed to dedicate the revenue to transportation infrastructure, including bridge and road repair. According to the state Senate Appropriations Committee, RRAA is expected to generate an estimated $5.2 billion per year or $52.4 billion between 2017 and 2027.
As of 2018, increasing a tax in California requires a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber and the governor’s signature. If passed by voters, Prop 6 would create the added step of requiring voter approval, by ballot propositions, to impose, increase or extend fuel taxes or vehicle fees.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests “A yes vote on this measure means: Fuel and vehicle taxes recently passed by the Legislature would be eliminated, which would reduce funding for highway and road maintenance and repairs, as well as transit programs. The Legislature would be required to get a majority of voters to approve new or increased state fuel and vehicle taxes in the future.”
Support and opposition are, for the most part, along party lines with Republicans in support of passage of Prop 6 (repeal of RRAA) and Democrats in opposition.
Supporters argue that RRAA taxes and fees hit working families and the poor much harder than the wealthy, that California has a current budget surplus that could be spent on transportation infrastructure and that “72 percent of state motor vehicle related taxes and fees are not spent on improving transportation infrastructure.”
Prop 6 is endorsed by the California Republican Party, the Ventura County Republican Party, and numerous federal and California state Republican incumbents and candidates.
More than $1 million in contributions toward passage of Prop 6 comes from Republican incumbents and candidates for California and U.S. offices. Carl DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego City Council, who helped launch the initiative, stated “[With passage of Prop 6,] 2018 will be remembered as the year we had another taxpayer revolt in California — where the outrageous car and gas taxes were reversed by voters and the politicians that enacted those tax hikes are punished at the ballot box.”
Opponents include the California Democratic Party.
Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, oppose the measure because of effects on employment (construction jobs) and accessibility to work sites (sound and navigable roads and bridges, and additional mass transit) The Chamber notes passage would: “Hurt job creation and the state’s economy. Reliable transportation infrastructure is critical to get Californians to work, move goods and services to the market and support the economy. This measure would eliminate more than 680,000 good paying jobs and nearly $183 billion in economic growth that will be created fixing California roads over the next decade.”
Opponents, including California Professional Firefighters, California Association of Highway Patrolmen, American Society of Civil Engineers, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, League of California Cities, California Alliance for Jobs and other first responders, note passage would eliminate currently underway projects to upgrade bridges and overpasses to meet earthquake safety standards and improve road safety throughout the state.
Mark Ghilarducci, director, California Office of Emergency Services, notes: “By stopping thousands of transportation improvement projects, Prop 6 will make our roads, bridges and transportation system less safe and lead to more traffic accidents and fatalities.”
Media opposition includes the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, an Diego Union Tribune and San Jose Mercury News. Notes the Sacramento Bee, “No one likes to pay more at the pump. But seriously tackling our state’s $130 billion backlog of highway and bridge maintenance and upgrades takes a significant, separate source of revenue. And these taxes and fees are the fairest method because those who use roads most are paying the most.”
Notes the LAO, state fuel excise taxes are set on a per gallon, consumption basis — hence the more driving on state roads, the greater the economic effect on drivers or companies. The LAO futher notes that license and recently enacted transportation improvement fees are based on vehicles’ values, hence those with older or less expensive vehicles pay proportionally less.
Voters are urged to review all available arguments on this measure, as well as funding support and opposition.