California gas tax, fee hike vote nears

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California lawmakers are set to vote Thursday on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 12-cent gas tax increase that would fund major road repairs. (KABC)

California lawmakers are set to vote Thursday on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 12-cent gas tax increase that would fund major road repairs.

Brown and top legislative leaders pressed all week to convince their fellow Democrats to support the measure, but they faced mounting opposition from environmentalists and anti-tax crusaders.

The proposal aims to address a $59 billion backlog in deferred maintenance on state highways and $78 billion on local streets and roads.

The measure is projected to raise $52.4 billion over 10 years, with much of the money going toward fixing potholes and repairing bridges. Some of the funds will go toward public transit and biking and walking trails.

"This is a fee, a fee for the privilege of driving on our roads that the people pay for. And we've got to keep paying for them, otherwise, they're not going to work for us. It's just that simple," Brown said.

It would raise gas taxes by 12 cents a gallon - a 43-cent increase - and diesel taxes from 16 cents per gallon to 36 cents. Diesel sales taxes would also rise.

Drivers would also face a new annual fee to be paid with their vehicle registration, ranging from $25 to $175 depending on the value of their vehicle. The taxes and fees would rise each year with inflation.

Republicans say the state can fund road repairs with existing funds - an idea Democrats say would require cuts to education and social services that they're unwilling to make.

"Instead of taking money from the general fund to be able to properly fund transportation, they want to tax ordinary Californians, hardworking Californians, those who are in the low and middle class that are just trying to make ends meet," said Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley. "That's their answer - just tax, tax, tax."

Some Republicans have questioned why the state would raise taxes to repair its existing infrastructure without adding more lanes of traffic as the state's population swells.

The bill, SB1, is the first major legislation that must comply with an initiative approved last year by voters that requires lawmakers to publish legislation for 72 hours before voting on it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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