Petition is bait-and-switch that won’t repeal gas tax
By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist
You can hear the lie all over AM radio: “Sign this petition and repeal the gas tax,” or “Stop the car tax.” The same message is being peddled by paid signature gatherers at drug stores, markets and public facilities.
But if you read the actual petition, you can quickly see all this “repeal the tax” rhetoric is nothing more than a bait-and-switch tactic, with the goal of fooling the public. There is not, and will not be, any measure on the ballot to repeal the gas tax, and the out-of-town money pouring into Orange County is really aimed at subverting the will of the voters and grossly misusing California’s recall process to build political power.
In November, the voters of the 29th Senate District elected Josh Newman as their new representative. State Sen. Newman is a U.S. Army veteran, Democrat and relative political outsider. His narrow defeat over Republican candidate Ling Ling Chang flipped a district that had been a Republican Party stronghold for years.
As soon as election results were in, however, insiders began waiting for opportunities to turn back the clock and return the district to GOP control. They saw their chance recently when the Legislature voted to approve a $52 billion increase in so-called gas taxes to fix California’s crumbling infrastructure.
The plan is pretty straightforward: mislead voters into believing the recall vote would repeal the gas tax.
First, lying to voters is never acceptable. Signing a recall petition to remove Sen. Newman from office will not repeal the gas tax. Anyone who says differently is uninformed or plain dishonest.
Second, the recall process is designed to remove politicians from office who have committed serious crimes or malfeasance. Sen. Newman’s vote to invest in California’s infrastructure, economy and roadway safety is not against the law. In fact, Sen. Newman took the lead negotiating protections to ensure that these funds can’t be misused by future politicians. It was Sen. Newman who co-authored a constitutional amendment mandating that funds raised for infrastructure repair be used exclusively for those purposes. It’s a level of protection the senator insisted be part of the package.
Ironically, the swing vote that gave the Senate the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass the funding package was cast by a Republican senator: Anthony Cannella of Ceres.
Third, subverting the will of the voters in the 29th District isn’t cheap. It will cost an estimated $3 million for a special election held less than a year after Sen. Newman took office.
Californians rely on gas tax revenue to fund the maintenance and repair of our roads, bridges and related infrastructure. It’s been 23 years since the state last raised the gas tax. During that period, increased fuel efficiency, alternative fuel vehicles and a drop in gas prices have further depleted gas tax revenue.
There is no question California needed additional resources to fix roads and infrastructure. It’s fair to debate how to provide those resources.
What is curious, however, is that when big oil companies raise fuel prices, political insiders like the San Diego politicians who are raising so much money for this recall effort are silent. It’s only when state representatives marginally raise prices to invest in the state’s infrastructure that they balk. I think we should all be asking whose interests they’re really serving.
And instead of challenging Sen. Newman on the field of ideas, these insiders have cravenly opted for a con to fool voters into signing a petition that offers one thing and delivers nothing.
Jennifer Muir Beuthin is general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.
Publication Date: June 9, 2017