Measuring the backlash against the gas tax increase

By Joel Fox | How hot is the anger over the gas tax increase?

It may be a bit early to measure in full the backlash on the gas tax increase since the tax won’t be collected until November. Even then the size of the increase may be muted some since in California gas prices tend to drop a bit when the winter fuel blends are manufactured and the demand for gasoline for summer driving drops off. In other words, the price of gas will drop about the time the tax is added.

However, there are signs that a protest against the recently passed gas tax and vehicle fee has staying power.

Joel FoxSources say that polling shows opposition to the gas tax increase and strong support for the potential recall effort against freshman Sen. Josh Newman. The Orange County Democrat was targeted because he holds a swing seat and removing him from office with a Republican successor would reduce the Democratic majority to below two-thirds of the Senate, the magic number needed to pass taxes.

The pro-recall group is said to be successful raising funds for the recall attempt and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has set up a committee in support of the effort. Significantly, Governor Jerry Brown said he would help raise funds to defend Sen. Newman. Democrats understand there is heat over this issue.

As I reported earlier, a Democratic senate staffer told me many angry phone calls came into the district office after the tax was passed.

In fact, after the gas tax vote Democrats made sure that discipline was meted out to keep members in line on future votes when the one Assembly Democrat, Rudy Salas and the one Senate Democrat, Steve Glazer, were removed from committee chairmanships after voting against the tax and vehicle fees.

Ironically, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León in accepting Glazer’s “resignation” praised him as “a man of integrity” for taking that step. Didn’t Glazer really show integrity by bucking the demands of party leaders and siding with his constituents whom Glazer said opposed the tax increases?

The idea of enforcing party discipline is not new, of course. But the prospects of a tax backlash brewing in the home of the modern day tax revolt cannot be ignored. Indeed, the Associated Press coverage of Glazer’s firing—excuse me, “resignation”—was picked up by the US News nationally, and oddly, even the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle newspaper.

If the backlash grows it could affect future lawmaking. While removing the gas tax by initiative (one has been filed by Assemblyman Travis Allen) will be a steep climb, a severe reaction against the gas tax would give legislators pause when considering many of the other tax increase measures that are circulating under the capitol dome.

[Cross-posted with permission from Fox & Hounds.]

 

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