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2018 Election Results

Proposition 6: California Keeps Its Gas Tax — And Infrastructure Repairs

Decades of ballot-box budgeting and artificial constraints on lawmakers’ authority have created a kind of vice grip around Sacramento. With Prop. 6 the voters decided not to tighten the screws.

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By soundly defeating Proposition 6 by more than 10 points, California voters decided to let the legislature govern for once. Funding for the state’s decaying roads, highways and transit systems will not be wiped out, a year after the popularly elected legislature collectively decided, by a super-majority, to modestly increase gas and vehicle taxes to pay for it. Moreover, the voters decided that the legislature should keep the responsibility of determining gas and vehicle taxes, rather than taking over that responsibility themselves.

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Conservatives explicitly put Prop. 6 on the ballot to boost votes for Republican members of Congress – a tactic that appears to not have worked, as at least three and maybe four California House seats will flip to Democrats once all votes are counted. There’s anger in conservative circles over “misleading” ballot language that is perfectly accurate; indeed, Prop. 6 would have “eliminate[d] road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.” Conservatives may not like it when dedicated taxes that fund something specific are described as… dedicated taxes that fund something specific, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to indulge them.

That’s what public investment is: We pay collectively to maintain the common resources we all use. This will result in over 68,000 annual jobs from 6,500 infrastructure projects, and indirect economic benefits from the improvements. Just as important, a tax measure decided by the legislature will stand. Decades of ballot-box budgeting and artificial constraints on lawmakers’ authority have created a kind of vice grip around Sacramento; with Prop. 6 the voters decided not to tighten the screws.

We should go further. It shouldn’t take two-thirds of our elected representatives to make the routine decision to tax, and only a simple majority to cut programs. That wrongly biases a state that regularly votes for activist government toward austerity.


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