California Voters Decide Transportation Initiatives, Recall Legislator Who Voted for Gas Tax Increase

California Voters Decide Transportation Initiatives, Recall Legislator Who Voted for Gas Tax Increase

June 15, 2018  | Brianne Eby

June 14, 2018

In last Tuesday’s primary, California voters decided on a mix of state and regional transportation measures. Prior to the primary, Eno reported on two statewide measures, Propositions 69 and 70. Read here for a full analysis of the potential implications of these measures.

Proposition 69, the Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox and Appropriations Limit Exemption Amendment, received 81.01% affirmative votes. This measure will amend the state constitution by earmarking funds raised through last year’s Senate Bill 1 for transportation use only. SB1 is estimated to raise $5.2 billion a year through transportation taxes and fees (such as the controversial $0.12/gallon increase in the state’s gas tax) for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Despite the measure passing, there is an underlying threat among state Republicans to repeal SB1 in the November election, with gas tax hike opponents claiming that transportation infrastructure projects should instead be funded by state budget surpluses and by reallocating money away from the proposed high-speed rail project.

(Ed. Note: Prop 69, the “lockbox” amendment, was pushed by many of the same interests who supported SB1 and oppose its repeal. By making certain that the new revenues cannot be diverted to other, non-transportation priorities, the enactment of Prop 69 may make it more politically difficult for gas tax opponents to repeal the tax increase this fall.)

Further complicating the Prop 69 transportation success story was the recall of state Senator Josh Newman (D), whose district includes Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties. Newman voted for SB1 in 2017, which, along with his narrow defeat of Republican Ling Ling Chang for a historically Republican seat in 2016, was a leading factor in his recall last Tuesday.

Newman’s recall means that state Senate Democrats will lose their two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes, but some also view it as a momentum-builder for the Republican push to repeal SB1, with voters signaling their interest in the repeal. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who was also successful in the primary, has been a particularly vocal opponent of the gas tax increase.

Proposition 70, the Vote Requirement to Use Cap-and-Trade Revenue Amendment, was a statewide measure proposing to pause spending of funds from state cap-and-trade revenues, for these revenues to be placed in a reserve fund in 2024, and for a one-time two-thirds legislative majority vote to pass a spending plan for those revenues.

The measure was defeated, 64.3% to 35.7%. Had it passed, it would have rendered unconstitutional the ability of the legislature to allow bonds from post-2024 cap-and-trade proceeds until after a two-thirds vote in that year, posing a direct challenge to the Business Plan of the state’s high-speed rail project.

Through Regional Measure 3, Bay Area residents voted 55.1% in favor of increasing a bridge toll on the area’s seven state-owned bridges (excluding the Golden Gate Bridge) by $3 over six years to fund the Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan. The plan’s goal was to relieve traffic and improve public transit through 35 regional projects.

Among the projects that stand to benefit from the bridge toll increases are the purchasing of new Bay Area Rapid Transit railcars, bicycle and pedestrian access improvements, conversion of HOV lanes to express lanes, and improvements to bridge and rail corridor infrastructure.

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