Energy

Here’s How Trump’s Gas Tax Gambit Can Help End California’s War On Motorists

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Californians pushing for a repeal of 2017’s gas tax increase believe President Donald Trump’s push for a similar measure on the federal level could ironically help them defeat the unpopular state law.

Trump’s decision to push a 25 cents-per gallon gas increase could pressure Californians into jumping on board to repeal the push, according to a group working to overturn Gov. Jerry Brown’s unpopular policy. It’s the ultimate irony for a group dead-set against such ideas.

“If there’s a pending 25 cent additional tax on top of the tax we just paid, I think that would be a huge incentive for Californians to say, ‘Gee, we’re being crushed here,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told reporters Monday.

Such a move, he said, could prompt Californians to reconsider their opposition to repeal.

“[W]e can’t do anything about the federal tax but there’s something we can certainly do about the state tax,” he said, referring to citizens who might be on the fence about last year’s move to make driving a cost prohibitive venture.

At least 450,000 signatures were gathered to get the measure on the statewide ballot in 2018, Coupal noted, adding that the campaign is on track to reach the required number of signatures by the May 1 deadline. “I know that really upsets the governor and I know it upsets the construction industry and the labor unions … But I think this is something that’s extremely popular with voters out there,” he said.

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Brown, a Democrat in his last term in office, signed into law last April a 12 cents-per-gallon increase in the state’s tax on gasoline, bringing the tax to 41.7 cents per gallon, making California one of the most expensive places to drive in the country.

He also chided state Republicans at the time for opposing the proposal, telling reporters that the GOP “expect the tooth fairy to pay the $5 billion” cost associate with maintaining roads. Yet some studies suggest such taxes generally tend to get squandered on matters not related to infrastructure.

Gas taxes are supposed to provide revenue for road construction, maintenance, repair, and improvements, but states typically divert much of the money to other sources. Gas taxes and motor vehicle license fees paid for 40 percent of state and local road spending in 2013.

Brown’s move had a profound effect on Californians’ driving habits. Motorists in the Golden State are now shelling out an average of $3.32 per gallon for gasoline, dwarfing the national average of $2.52. Trump is apparently willing to double down on Brown’s 12 cents-per-gallon increase.

He proposed an additional 25 cents per gallon federal tax earlier this month to help pay for his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. It remains to be seen whether a deeply divided Congress will agree to the plan — it would be the first federal gas tax increase since 1993 if lawmakers take up the president’s offer.

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