Democrats advance gas tax in key committee vote

Eric Eisenhammer

The Senate Transportation committee voted 8-3, on a party line vote to approve a proposed gas tax increase at its recent February 14th meeting.

This committee is chaired by Senator Jim Beall (D – San Jose), who coincidentally is also the author of the gas tax proposal.

In a case of government lobbying government to raise taxes on the rest of us, the meeting featured testimony by the League of California Cities. The League is a coalition of local governments that has led the effort to rally support for the gas tax and is among Sacramento’s most well-funded special interests. In fact, state filings reveal government agencies spend more than any other special interest lobbying Sacramento – a whopping $110 million from 2013 – 2015. Perhaps they should use that money to fix our roads instead?

Gas tax proponents argue despite some of the nation’s highest gas taxes, current revenues are insufficient for Sacramento to competently provide California motorists with decent roads.

However, absent from the discussion is any serious attempt to examine whether policymakers’ spending priorities really align with the priorities of most of the people they claim to represent.

In a survey that should surprise no one – a recent report from the state Chamber of Commerce found Californians want elected leaders to prioritize roads and jobs instead of  throwing billions in taxpayer money at electric car subsidies and the failed high speed rail project – which just suffered yet another setback as Federal officials’ decided to cancel a $650 million grant.

The gas tax, titled Senate Bill 1, is scheduled for another hearing today in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

With Democrats’ supermajority power, it is possible SB 1 will pass without a single Republican vote. However, given Democrats’ repeated promises to care about the poor, representatives from inner city and rural districts might face a serious backlash if they support the tax.

As with many unpopular proposals, the politicians’ best hope of passing this bill is if the public fails to take notice of it until it has already been passed. Likewise, citizens’ best hope of stopping the tax is a concerted effort to educate our friends and neighbors combined with massive action calling our representatives and telling them in no uncertain terms that we demand they vote NO on the gas tax.

Eric Eisenhammer is the Founder and Chairman of the Coalition of Energy Users.