Many Californians may not have noticed, but their wallets just avoided getting hit by a speeding car tax.
Last month, the Attorney General cleared a measure entitled the “California Road Repairs Act of 2014” to begin collecting signatures for placement on the November ballot. Backed by well-heeled transportation interests — including contractors, construction unions and the bond industry — the initiative would more than double the California car tax, known as the VLF.
However, the backers of the new tax have just announced that they have decided to put their initiative on hold. Rumors are that these “concrete salesmen” (our pet name for the transportation lobby) were discouraged by the results of polling that showed that taxpayers would turn thumbs down on this tax increase. As one observer remarked, “This would be as popular with taxpayers as a skunk in a space capsule,” and it should be noted that Gray Davis’ increase of the car tax was an issue that contributed to his being recalled.
While most Californians would like to see the condition of roads and highways improved, they are also aware that in 2012 they approved Proposition 30, which raises $50 billion by increasing sales and income taxes. They have also heard Governor Brown, the primary sponsor of the massive tax increase, say the ship has been righted and the state should not be looking to additional taxes.
With California already ranking number one in state sales tax, marginal income tax rates, gas tax and 14th in per capital property taxes, it should be a “no brainer” that this is not the time to ask taxpayers for even more.
California taxpayers are already extremely generous to government and based on the promises that have been made to them regarding road construction and maintenance, have every right to expect the state to do a better job with funds now provided.
In 1990, voters approved Proposition 111, titled the “Traffic Congestion Relief and Spending Limitation Act.” This permanently increased the gasoline tax by 9 cents and upped fees on truckers. The campaign was funded by the usual concrete salesmen suspects and Proposition 111 was advertised as an end to freeway congestion. Taxpayers are still paying and are still waiting for the end to freeway congestion. And the reference to limiting spending in the measure’s title? Buried within were changes to the Gann Spending Limit, which allowed governments to spend much more, not less.
In 2006, the transportation lobby toted out the same arguments and spent nearly $20 million to convince voters to approve a $20 billion transportation bond. “California has the most congested highways in the nation,” and passing the Proposition 1B bond “puts backlogged transportation project on the fact track, reducing congestion and improving highway safety,” they claimed. And, of course, as with any measure that will cost taxpayers money, it was given an attractive title, the “Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act.”
That transportation interests will not pursue their latest tax hike proposal shows they are aware of the big stop sign being held up by voters who are still waiting for the promises made by Propositions 111 and 1B to be kept.