Watch CBS News

Proposition 6: Gas Tax At Center Of Debate Over Road Funding

Proposition 6 seeks to repeal last year's decision by the Democratic-led Legislature to raise fuel taxes and vehicle fees to pay for roughly $5 billion a year in highway and road improvements and transit programs.

Republicans and Democrats agree the sprawling state known for its car culture needs a transportation overhaul, with suburban commuters clamoring for better freeways and urban dwellers demanding mass transit.



  • YES vote on this measure means: Fuel and vehicle taxes recently passed by the Legislature would be eliminated, which would reduce funding for highway and road maintenance and repairs, as well as transit programs. The Legislature would be required to get a majority of voters to approve new or increased state fuel and vehicle taxes in the future.A NO vote on this measure means: Fuel and vehicle taxes recently passed by the Legislature would continue to be in effect and pay for highway and road maintenance and repairs, as well as transit programs. The Legislature would continue not to need voter approval for new or increased state fuel and vehicle taxes in the future.


  • Reduced ongoing state revenues of $5.1 billion from the elimination of fuel and vehicle taxes passed by the Legislature in 2017. These revenues mainly would have paid for highway and road maintenance and repairs, as well as transit programs.
  • The requirement that voters approve new or increased fuel and vehicle taxes passed by the Legislature in the future could result in lower revenues from such taxes than otherwise would have been available.
  • Ballot impact data and vote text from the California Legislative Analyst's Office


But how to fund these fixes has been hotly disputed, prompting the recall of a Democratic state lawmaker who voted for the tax increase and spurring Republican candidates in races for federal, state and local offices to take up the call for repeal.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the transportation deal last year to raise $52 billion over a decade for road and bridge repairs. Nearly half the money will come from fuel taxes, with a 12 cent-per-gallon boost in gasoline excise taxes that took effect last November.

The repeal initiative — a constitutional amendment proposed by San Diego talk radio host and Republican former councilman Carl DeMaio —is backed by Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox and taxpayer advocates. It is opposed by construction industry and firefighter unions.


    Authorizes Bonds to Fund Specified Housing Assistance Programs. Legislative Statute.
    Authorizes Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Program for Individuals With Mental Illness. Legislative Statute.
    Authorizes Bonds to Fund Projects for Water Supply and Quality, Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Water Conveyance, and Groundwater Sustainability and Storage. Initiative Statute.
    Authorizes Bonds Funding Construction at Hospitals Providing Children's Health Care. Initiative Statute.
    Changes Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer Their Property Tax Base to Replacement Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
    Eliminates Certain Road Repair and Transportation Funding. Requires Certain Fuel Taxes and Vehicle Fees Be Approved by the Electorate. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
    Conforms California Daylight Saving Time to Federal Law. Allows Legislature to Change Daylight Saving Time Period. Legislative Statute.
    Regulates Amounts Outpatient Kidney Dialysis Clinics Charge for Dialysis Treatment. Initiative Statute.
    Removed from the ballot
    Expands Local Governments' Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Initiative Statute.
    Requires Private-sector Emergency Ambulance Employees to Remain on-call During Work Breaks. Eliminates Certain Employer Liability. Initiative Statute.
    Establishes New Standards for Confinement of Specified Farm Animals; Bans Sale of Noncomplying Products. Initiative Statute.

Supporters raised about $5 million through September, according to campaign finance reports. That's a far cry from the $30 million raised to oppose the initiative, which would also require voter approval to raise vehicle or fuel taxes in the future.

Opponents contend there aren't enough funds to keep up with the transit needs of California's 40 million people. Over the last two decades, automobiles have become more fuel efficient — a boon for the environment but a challenge to transportation budgets as drivers need less gasoline.

A September poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California showed the measure lagging, with only 39 percent saying they would vote for repeal and 52 percent saying they oppose it.

While the initiative is a state ballot measure, Republican candidates for Congress are also jumping on the issue as they face increased pressure from Democrats trying to make the most of President Donald Trump's low approval ratings in the state and capture a majority of seats in the House of Representatives in November.

In the Public Policy Institute survey, Trump had a 37 percent approval rating among likely California voters, and didn't win the 2016 election even in the once traditional Republican stronghold of Orange County.

Much support for the measure poured in after Republicans successfully recalled Orange County Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman in June over his vote for the gas tax increase. The recall ended Democrats' two-thirds majority in the state Legislature and signaled the initiative might be tapping into voters' unease with the taxes, experts said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.