Republicans' latest effort to repeal California's upcoming gas tax increase got a boost Wednesday from members of Congress and GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who said he would spend "significant" money to help put the initiative on next year's ballot.
"We can't keep making this state unaffordable for working people and expect people to stay," Cox said at a news conference at the California Republican Party's headquarters.
It's the second Republican initiative aimed at repealing the tax increase, passed by lawmakers this year to generate $52 billion over 10 years for road and bridge repairs. The gas tax will go up by 12 cents per gallon in November, and diesel taxes will spike as well. The other repeal effort is backed by Assemblyman Travis Allen — Cox's competitor for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Both initiatives aim to repeal the tax increase, but the Cox-backed effort will also include a constitutional amendment that requires any future gas and car tax increases to win voter approval.
Republicans view the tax increase as a highly unpopular move that will draw voters from across California to the polls in the midterm election. Democrats plan to aggressively target seven California Republicans who serve in districts that voted Democratic in the presidential election.
One of those Republicans is U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters of Irvine, who added her support to the Cox-funded campaign.
"The liberal legislature needs to stop increasing taxes on hardworking Californians," Walters said by phone during the news conference. Republican U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa also spoke in support of the repeal effort.
Cox pledged "significant" money to the effort, but he declined to give an amount. The initiative needs 584,000 signatures to get on the ballot, and Cox's money will help pay for the efforts to gather signatures. Carl DeMaio, a conservative radio host from San Diego who is backing the effort, said 250,000 people are already supporting the effort. DeMaio and Cox argue California can fix its roads by better using the money it already has rather than taking more from taxpayers.
The Attorney General's office, though, has not issued the official ballot summary and title. DeMaio expects that to happen in mid-November.
Backers of the gas tax increase argue Californians want to spend money to fix roads and bridges.
"If (the repeal effort) does go forward, we are confident that voters will soundly reject any attempt to take us backward by blocking vital road and safety repairs now planned for every community," said Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the Fix Our Roads Coalition made up of business, labor and local government groups.
The coalition urged members of Congress in September not to throw their support behind the repeal initiative.
"Our organizations will have no option but to mount a robust and powerful effort in opposition to this initiative, using the voices of California's business community to counter your efforts," it read. "We don't think your objective is to create new political adversaries."