Critics of GOP-backed gas tax repeal say Prop. 6 would cost L.A. county nearly $1 billion in funding for road repairs and other projects

By Gary Walker

Repealing the state’s gasoline tax could bring relief to consumers’ pocketbooks, but potentially at the cost of vital funding for local transportation projects
Photo by Gary Walker

High-profile House Republican leaders are lending their political and financial muscle to a state proposition that could result in lower car registration fees and put an end to Sacramento legislators raising taxes on gasoline.

But if Proposition 6, a repeal of the state’s gasoline tax, passes on Nov. 6, Angelenos could lose nearly $1 billion in public infrastructure funding this year alone for much needed street and freeway repairs and other projects.

The gasoline tax, which funds public transit, freeway repair and maintenance, local law enforcement and the Departments of Food and Agriculture and Recreation and Parks, was passed on May 1 as Senate Bill 1.

Soon after Gov. Jerry Brown signed
the bill into law, state and national Republican leaders began pouring money into an organized effort to get Proposition 6 on the ballot in time for the midterm elections.

Through political action committees, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has donated $50,000, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of (R-Bakersfield) has contributed over $200,000, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) has given $50,000, and Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox has kicked in $250,000 to the Proposition 6 campaign, according to state campaign finance records.

Proponents of the initiative say a family of four will this year pay nearly $800 more in taxes due to the gas tax.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll taken last month showed the public siding with opponents of the measure by a margin of 52-39%, with 8% undecided.

“This is real money for working families, even though politicians will say that it’s only pennies,” said Carl DeMaio, the chairman of the Yes on Prop. 6 campaign and a former member of the San Diego City Council. “This is a crushing blow to families in California at a time when the cost of living is growing substantially.”

In previous years, legislators have used the tax to pay down the state’s debt. As a result, road repair projects have suffered at the local and state level.

“And they’ll do it again,” DeMaio asserted. “Sacramento politicians are intentionally trying to fool voters with their deceptive campaigning.”

According to Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office, projects that are paid for by the gas tax that could be in jeopardy if Proposition 6 passes include several in Del Rey, Mar Vista and Venice.

Some of the planned projects that could be held up if Proposition 6 passes
include: a new traffic signal at Culver Boulevard and Slauson Avenue and a left turn signal at Culver and Inglewood boulevards in Del Rey; a westbound left turn signal at Inglewood Boulevard and Washington Place; a northbound left turn signal at Centinela Avenue and Venice Boulevard; eastbound, southbound and westbound signals at Palms and Sawtelle boulevards; and a left turn signal at Ocean Avenue and Washington Boulevard.

Mayor Eric Garcetti held a press conference on Oct. 3 near LAX with businesses and labor leaders to explain how Proposition 6 could jeopardize the automated People Mover connection from the Crenshaw/LAX Metro line to LAX.

Garcetti said county sales tax initiative Measure M put Los Angeles “on the cusp” of connecting rail to the airport.

“Proposition 6 would undo those plans. I’m urging everyone I meet to vote no on Proposition 6 because it would cripple 900 Los Angeles County projects to ease congestion, fix local roads and improve safety and would put 68,000 Californians out of work. It’s a no brainer,” Garcetti told the audience.

And transportation-related repairs at the regional and state level could be delayed or downsized.

“State and local governments will lose $5.4 billion per year in transportation funding” if Proposition 6 is successful, says Lauren Wonder, a spokeswoman
for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). “Los Angeles County stands to lose $965 million worth of projects this year.”

DeMaio dismissed the notion that municipal and state projects will go unfunded if the initiative is successful.

“These projects are already paid for.
For politicians to engage in this type
of hostage taking is outrageous,”
he said.