Energy

California Dems Are Bailing On Gas Tax Issue As GOP Whips Up Opposition

(Shutterstock/By Jim Vallee)

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Chris White Tech Reporter

A handful of Democratic candidates in California are refusing to defend a politically divisive gas tax that Republicans have turned into a major campaign issue heading into the midterm elections.

Democratic congressional candidate Katie Porter launched an Aug. 20 campaign ad calling claims that she supports higher gas taxes a “straight-up lie.” Porter is not the only candidate in her party pushing back against the now-toxic tax, which passed California’s congress along a partisan line.

“The gas tax is not the way to fix [California’s infrastructure] problems,” Josh Harder, a 31-year-old Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California, wrote in an Aug. 17 editorial. Funding for improvements should come from the federal government, he added. Harder was even more explicit in subsequent media interviews.

“I support Proposition 6,” he told reporters at McClatchy, referring to a ballot initiative opponents of the tax drafted seeking to reverse California’s 12 cent gas tax increase. “We all agree that we need to fix our roads and bridges, especially here in the Valley, but it should be through a thoughtful, cost-effective national plan,” he said.

Jessica Morse, a Democrat running against GOP California Rep. Tom McClintock, also criticized the gas tax increase in a press statement, equating the measure outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, passed in 2017 to a form of double taxation.

“If the people of 4th district had a representative who fought to address the needs of this community, like alleviating traffic at the 80-65 interchange and fixing the roads our businesses rely upon, there would be no increase to the gas tax,” she said. Morse did not clarify whether she was intent on overturning the tax.

Their reasons for bailing might stem from a spate of polls conducted throughout the past year showing the tax’s unpopularity. (RELATED: Gas Tax Could Lead To A Big Win For Republicans In California)

Nearly 58 percent of voters oppose the tax increase, including 39 percent who say they strongly reject the legislation, according to a survey the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies conducted shortly after the measure was passed. Only 35 percent of voters surveyed at the time favored the law, which raises taxes on gasoline and diesel and hikes vehicle registration fees to fix roads and highways.

Opposition against the measure is widespread. Voters in all major regions of the state other than the Bay Area and all age categories over 30 are unhappy about it. Liberal voters are the only group that largely supports the law. Other polls are more split. More than 47 percent of likely voters favor repeal, while 48 percent oppose nixing the law, according to a poll the Public Policy Institute of California released in February.

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