ALLEN-PRICE: So we get Proposition 6 on the ballot. What are we voting on? What is in Proposition 6?
ORR: So Proposition 6 would repeal the increased gas tax that went into effect in November. So that 12 extra cents on your gallon of gas, that 20 extra cents on your gallon of diesel and those increased fees at the DMV, that would all be repealed.
ALLEN-PRICE: But that's not all Prop. 6 would do. KQED transportation editor Dan Brekke explains what else we're voting on with this prop.
DAN BREKKE: The second big part of this is that it would amend the state constitution so that any future gasoline tax increases or increases in the vehicle fees would be subject to approval of the voters.
ALLEN-PRICE: What would that mean for the future if this did pass and you did have that constitutional change?
BREKKE: Well, it becomes politically sort of impossible to get a gas tax increase. I mean, we've had all sorts of what they call ballot box budgeting, and this would just be maybe the most radical example.
ORR: So it really takes a lot of power away from the Legislature and puts it back with the voters, which some people would see as a great thing. Legislators tend to think that it would leave them a little bit hamstrung.
ALLEN-PRICE: So why has this become sort of the marquee issue for Republicans in 2018?
ORR: There was fear, especially in the primary, that they would not have a candidate in the governor's race. So there was concern that it would be Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, both Democrats, in November. If that happens, Republicans don't have a lot of reason to come out to the polls. So they were thinking, 'well, shoot, we need something on the ballot because this is a huge year for the congressional races as well.' There are about seven seats in California that Democrats think they have a really good shot at flipping from Republican to Democrat, and if Republican voters aren't at the polls because they don't have a candidate, then that makes those odds a lot better for Democrats. So fortunately for the Republicans, they did get a candidate into the November election, John Cox. He's a businessman from San Diego, but he doesn't seem to be getting as much traction as Gavin Newsom, and the gas tax is what they're counting on to get their core voters out to the polls.
ALLEN-PRICE: Now, even though everyone is talking about this as the gas tax repeal, and they're talking about what you pay at the pump, Dan says it might actually be the vehicle fee increase that people really notice.
BREKKE: The fees are steep under SB 1. Your vehicle fee — and then there's a new transportation fee — is based on the market value of your car. So we bought a car last year, and I get my first vehicle registration form in the mail and the fee is over $400. And over $400 at one time, you feel that. Twelve cents a gallon is sort of a slow drip. This is kind of like a big hit all at once.
ALLEN-PRICE: The kind of surprising thing is all this fighting might not even matter in a few years.
ORR: The interesting thing about the gas tax is we're having this big argument about it, right? But no matter what they really do, the gas tax is going to keep declining because people are getting more fuel-efficient cars, so they need less gas. Some people are getting electric cars — they don't need any gas. So fewer and fewer people are actually buying the gas we need them to buy to maintain the roads. So at some point, they're going to have to come up with a new funding mechanism anyway. And I think if this gas tax is repealed, it would just kind of speed up that process.
ALLEN-PRICE: Wow. If this passes, if Prop. 6 passes, what happens?
BREKKE: Those taxes and fees are repealed, period, and any future taxes and fee increases will need to be approved by the voters.
ALLEN-PRICE: If this doesn't pass, what message does that send?
ORR: Well, I think it sends a message that California is facing a lot of issues. I mean, our roads, our cost of living, the increase in the homeless population, and at some point — and Gov. Jerry Brown says this a lot in his speeches — you're going to have to pay to fix it. Like, sorry. That's just the reality of the situation. You're going to have to pay to fix it.
ALLEN-PRICE: Thanks to KQED reporters Katie Orr and Dan Brekke for walking us through this one. If you've still got questions about the gas tax, I've got good news for you. We're hosting a Facebook Live on Oct. 10 about the gas tax, and we'll be answering your questions. You can go ahead and RSVP ahead of time, so you'll get this handy reminder when it rolls around. Details at BayCurious.org.
ALLEN-PRICE: That's one prop down and 10 more to go for Prop Week. Tomorrow, we're talking about whether daylight saving time should be all the time, how much space animals deserve and our state's favorite topic — water. Bay Curious is made in San Francisco at KQED. I'm Olivia Allen-Price.