Judge rewrites petition wording for repealing gas tax increase
SACRAMENTO (AP) — A California judge has rewritten the official ballot description for a proposed initiative repealing gas tax increases after finding one written by Attorney General Xavier Becerra was flawed and misleading.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley finalized his ballot title and summary on Monday following a lawsuit filed by Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach, a Republican candidate for governor who wants to repeal the gas tax.
Becerra’s title said the ballot measure would eliminate transportation funding by repealing revenues.
Frawley ruled that’s confusing to voters and changed the title to say explicitly that it would repeal gas and diesel taxes in addition to transportation funding.
“This is not a situation where reasonable minds may differ,” Frawley wrote. “The attorney general’s title is fundamentally flawed and must be changed to avoid misleading the voters and creating prejudice against the measure.”
Becerra spokeswoman Bethany Lesser did not answer questions in a phone call and sent Tuesday by email about whether the office plans to appeal the decision.
The judge’s rewritten ballot title reads: “Repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Eliminates road repair and transportation programs funded by these taxes and fees.”
The ballot title and summary will appear on petition forms and the ballot if it qualifies. It must be finalized before Allen and his allies can begin collecting signatures in an attempt to put the repeal bill on the November 2018 ballot.
Lawmakers voted in April to boost gas taxes and vehicle fees to raise $5 billion a year for road repairs. Starting Nov. 1, gas taxes will increase by 12 cents a gallon and diesel taxes by 20 cents.
Next year, a new fee tied to vehicle registrations will cost motorists between $25 and $175 depending on the value of the vehicle.
And in 2020, zero-emission vehicle owners will be charged a $100 fee with their vehicle registration since they do not contribute to road maintenance through gas taxes.
Allen said he was pleased with the judge’s final language, which he said would make clear to voters what they’re deciding.