Capitol Alert: Backers put brakes on proposed California car-tax hike

01/28/2014 9:28 AM

01/29/2014 3:22 PM

Proponents of a proposed ballot measure to more than double the vehicle-license fee to pay for road improvements have decided to drop efforts to put it on the November ballot.

The "California Road Repairs Act of 2014" would have phased in a 1 percent hike in the license fee -- the equivalent of property tax on a home -- to raise from $3 billion to $4 billion annually. The fee has been .65 percent of a vehicle's market value since the late 1990s, with a temporary increase to 1.15 percent from May 2009 through June 2011.

But Monday, Will Kempton, the executive director of Transportation California, said his group and the California Alliance for Jobs "have decided to put our initiative on hold."

"We'll continue to work with stakeholders, the Legislature, the administration and the public to identify and implement a solution to our transportation infrastructure problems," Kempton, a former Caltrans director, said in an e-mail.

The measure had been cleared earlier this month to begin collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Kempton and other supporters point to a huge backlog of road improvement projects in California, with little new money to pay for them. Yet supporters also were well aware of the difficulty in getting the public to back an increase in the license fee, which has a prominent place in the mindset of the state's car-centric culture.

Past increases have not been popular. In mid-2003, then-Gov. Gray Davis raised the fee to 2 percent, what it had been before lawmakers began reducing it in the late 1990s. The increase contributed to his defeat in the recall election that October and the victory of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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