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Gas tax repeal appears headed for failure – but voters may get another shot

See how much California’s gas tax will rise through 2020

Increases to California's gas tax were approved in 2017 and will continue for years.
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Increases to California's gas tax were approved in 2017 and will continue for years.

Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen’s effort to repeal a controversial hike in the state’s gas tax appears to have hit a wall.

Allen, a candidate for governor, faced a Monday deadline to turn in more than 350,000 signatures to county elections officials to qualify for the November ballot. County officials then have eight working days to conduct a raw count and report to the Secretary of State’s office.

That count is due to the state office Jan. 19. But, as of the close of business last Friday, a spokesman with the Secretary of State told The Sacramento Bee it has not received signature reports. A spokesman for Allen did not immediately return an email seeking information.

Leaders of a separate push to eliminate the gas tax, which has received funding from Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, said Friday that they have collected more than 400,000 of the roughly 585,000 they need to collect by May 21.

A December poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found 52 percent of likely voters would support an initiative repealing the increases, and 46 percent said they “strongly” support repealing the charges.

The tax increases from Senate Bill 1 took effect on Nov. 1. Motorists are paying another 12 cents per gallon for gasoline and 20 cents per gallon on diesel fuel, along with a 4 percent increase in sales taxes on diesel.

The gas tax is expected to raise $52 billion for transportation projects over a decade. Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2018-19 budget proposal includes $4.6 billion for new projects using money from the new taxes and fees.

Brown said at a news conference this week that repealing the tax would be a mistake and that any effort to undo the transportation plan at the ballot would be opposed by a well-funded campaign.

“If (a repeal initiative) were to pass, it would be a blow to California’s economy,” Brown said. “It’s common sense. This is all money going to roads.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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