Anti-Gas Tax Petition Receives 940,000 Signatures

A petition led mainly by California's conservatives to halt a recent gas tax hike has secured several thousand signatures.

On Monday, the signatures were turned over to officials at a publicized event in front of the San Diego Registrar of Voters, the NBC Bay Area affiliate reports. With over 940,000 signatures gathered, the effort is now advanced one step further, bringing the issue onto the November ballot where it will be determined by California voters.

The signature turn over and the announcement comes just days after officials with California's transportation department said they planned to use funding from the tax increase to fix public transportation infrastructure and other mass transit within the state. An estimated $2.6 billion of the tax funds was expected to be used for the improvements.

Many political watchers contend that the effort to repeal the gas tax is part of the state's Republican party strategy for the upcoming election cycle. On Monday, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox joined gas tax repeal organizers outside the San Diego Registrar, voicing vocal support for the effort. The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports that much of the initiative's funding comes directly from the California Republican Party and Republican congresspersons.

The gas tax overhaul effort comes a year after SB1 passed in the California legislature. Under SB1, the state was given the go-ahead to raise the gas tax by $0.12 per gallon, or $0.20 per gallon of diesel. In addition, a new vehicle registration fee was passed, costing California car owners an additional $25 to $175 per year per vehicle, depending on that vehicle's value. Because zero-emission vehicles require no gas and their owners, by de facto, pay no gas tax, non-emission vehicles would be charged a $100 fee with their vehicle registration to account for the loss of tax they'd pay on gas. Gas tax monies and the new $100 zero-emission fee, which is expected to take effect in 2020, is allocated to maintaining California roads.

The gas tax repeal effort has been a political hot-button issue for Californians. The San Luis Obispo reports that the state's population is divided roughly in half for their support or opposition to the effort.

Many leaders within the state's Republican party have chosen to use the issue as part of their overall 2018 political strategy, and with good reason. Currently, the state's Republicans face the challenge of advancing a top GOP candidate for both the state governor and U.S. Senate positions. The GOP is hoping this issue will help put their candidates back on the ballot.