When Gov. Jerry Brown and majority Democrats rammed through a massive package of fuel and vehicle tax increases, California voters were frozen out. Before they knew what hit them, they were saddled with more than $5 billion in new taxes every year – a jump of 12 cents a gallon for gas and 20 cents for diesel, and as much as $175 more in annual car registration fees.
So I decided to go directly to voters with an initiative to repeal this high-handed, authoritarian and unnecessary Senate Bill 1.
Now Brown and his handpicked state Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, are trying to deceive voters to save the gas tax from repeal. Although the state Constitution requires an impartial ballot title and summary, Becerra has opted to use intentionally misleading language.
Californians deserve better, which is why I recently filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court to have the title and summary restored to the straightforward original version. This lawsuit is scheduled to be heard Friday.
Time is of the essence. I am confident of a court victory, but Becerra’s obstructionism has cost voters valuable time. To qualify the initiative for the November 2018 ballot, an ambitious statewide effort will have to be mounted to collect at least 365,880 signatures of registered voters within 180 days.
To be clear, the initiative is a direct repeal of the gas tax, yet Becerra has omitted the words “tax” and “fee” from his ballot statement. Further, he falsely suggests that the initiative repeals existing transportation revenues, though the SB 1 tax increases have not yet gone into effect, and that the initiative will “eliminate” guaranteed transportation “revenues” when it leaves existing transportation funds in place and does not stop the Legislature from allocating more money for transportation improvements.
Becerra’s ballot title and summary also attempt to con voters into thinking SB 1 revenues are guaranteed solely for transportation and road repair, when it contains no such guarantees. It also further claims that the initiative will “eliminate” an office that does not exist, the Independent Office of Audits and Investigations.
Unfortunately, Becerra has undermined the law and the integrity of his office to purse a narrow, partisan political agenda to block the taxpayer’s right to decide on the gas tax. This isn’t the first time California Democrats have pulled this maneuver. Becerra’s predecessor, Kamala Harris, repeatedly drafted ballot summaries for pension reform initiatives that were so prejudicial and misleading that the initiatives’ backers abandoned their efforts to qualify them. Brown himself, as attorney general, was twice ordered by the courts to change title and summaries he drafted because they deceived voters.
It is disappointing, yet not surprising, that the state’s top law enforcement official would so blatantly disregard his constitutional duty in the service of rank partisanship. This is exactly the kind of special interest trickery and self-dealing voters rebelled against last November. In the long run, such tactics by Brown, Becerra and Democrats will only backfire when California voters repeal the massive gas tax.
Travis Allen, an Orange County Republican, represents the 72nd state Assembly District and is a 2018 candidate for governor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.