As a resident of California, I recently had to make a fairly significant change to my weekly gasoline budget due to the state’s new fuel tax (12 cents per gallon for gasoline, 20 cents per gallon for diesel). Vehicle registration fees are scheduled to go up in 2020, $25 to $175 depending on the value of the vehicle and $100 for a zero-emission vehicle.
It’s all supposed to raise more than $5 billion per year for transportation and road repairs throughout California.
There is now a Republican-sponsored initiative to repeal the tax as of January 2019. And there’s some heated discussion as to what the official title on the state ballot pamphlet should be. Should it start by saying “repeals taxes” or “eliminates revenues?”
The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “Both descriptions are accurate. Which one will accompany a Republican-sponsored initiative to repeal the tax, as of January 2019, is a question now before a state appeals court in Sacramento. The justices must weigh their duty to inform the voters against the authority provided by law to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office prepares the title and summary for every proposed ballot measure.
Becerra, a Democrat, drafted a title for the initiative that referred only to its impact on repair programs and revenue, though his more-detailed summary that followed listed each tax that would be repealed. In September, a Sacramento County judge, in an unusual but not unprecedented action, found the title misleading and rewrote it to lead with the gas tax repeal.
The attorney general’s office challenged the judge’s action to the Third District Court of Appeal.
‘Courts have stated that considerable deference must be afforded to the attorney general’s title and summary,’ lawyers from Becerra’s office said in the filing. The judge, the lawyers said, ‘simply substituted (his) judgment for the judgment of the official vested by state law with the task.’
On the other hand, the attorney general is also a politician, from the party that steered the gas tax through the Legislature. He was appointed to his current position by Gov. Jerry Brown, ‘the very governor who champions this’ tax increase, to replace Kamala Harris after her election to the U.S. Senate, noted Benjamin Pugh, lawyer for Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), sponsor of the tax repeal initiative.”
That article goes on to say, “Becerra’s title said the repeal initiative ‘eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by eliminating revenues dedicated for those purposes.’
In response to a lawsuit by Allen, a prospective Republican candidate for governor next year, Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley recast the title to say that the measure ‘repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Eliminates road repair and transportation programs funded by these taxes and fees.’”
It needs to be resolved soon because the name and summary that go on the proposed ballot measure will be the same that go on signature-gathering petitions, and supporters of the proposed legislation have until June 28 to gather nearly 366,000 signatures.
What would you call it? Does the name of a ballot measure make a difference?