A Republican candidate for governor has failed to collect enough signatures for his proposed ballot initiative to eliminate last year's increase in the gas tax, but he said Friday he's backing another repeal measure instead.
Assemblyman Travis Allen blamed legal wrangling over the initiative's official title and summary, which he said prevented him from collecting signatures ahead of a deadline this week.
Allen challenged the ballot summary written by Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra, which centered on losing revenue rather than repealing the tax. A Sacramento County judge agreed Becerra's description was biased, but the Court of Appeal overturned the decision.
"Unfortunately, the attorney general, through his political maneuvering, was able to stall the repeal of the gas tax and put us in a legal catch-22 that ran down the clock for our signature gathering," Allen said.
Allen said he'll work on collecting signatures for another initiative that would repeal last year's hike in gas taxes and vehicle registration fees while requiring voter approval for any future increase. The measure is backed by several Republican members of Congress and San Diego businessman John Cox, one of Allen's main GOP rivals for governor.
Organizers of that initiative said Friday they've collected 400,000 of the 585,407 signatures needed by May 21.
The fight over the gas tax is central to the GOP's 2018 election strategy in a state where fierce opposition to Republican President Donald Trump could drive Democrats to the polls. Republicans hope that the opposition to the tax increase will encourage conservatives to vote in large numbers.
Money Allen had raised for his initiative will be used for gas tax repeal efforts, not his gubernatorial campaign.
Lawmakers last year voted to increase gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon along with annual increases tied to inflation. They also raised diesel taxes and created a new vehicle registration fee that ranges from $25 to $175 depending on the value of the vehicle. It's projected to raise $5 billion a year for road maintenance, public transit and other transportation projects.