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Assemblyman Travis Allen fails to qualify initiative to repeal gas tax, will support campaign for similar measure

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) speaks at a Tea Party conference in Fresno in August. (Silvia Flores / For The Times)
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) speaks at a Tea Party conference in Fresno in August. (Silvia Flores / For The Times)

Assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) said Friday that a protracted court battle prevented him from collecting signatures to qualify an initiative to repeal California’s new gas tax increase.

He said he will support a campaign for a similar ballot measure backed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and rival GOP candidate for governor John Cox.

“What we are excited about is partnering with one of the state’s oldest and most respected taxpayer watchdog groups to make sure that we hold Jerry Brown to his campaign promise of no new taxes without a vote of the people,” Allen said. “I’m very excited to begin going up and down the state helping to collect the signatures we will need to repeal Jerry Brown’s gas tax.”

Allen had 150 days to collect 365,000 signatures to qualify his initiative for the November ballot, but the deadline passed this week without any signatures being turned in. A report on the signatures is scheduled to be released by the counties Jan. 19.

The legislator blamed a legal battle over what he believed was a misleading title and summary prepared for the initiative by the state attorney general’s office. A Superior Court judge ruled that the title was misleading because it failed to make plain that the ballot measure would repeal a new tax.

However, an appeals court sided with state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra in saying the title and summary were clear enough. Allen appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, which refused to hear the dispute.

Allen said any signatures collected before the court decisions would have been tossed out, so his petition drive was stymied by a “legal Catch 22.”

“Clearly it is an affront to every California citizen that the [state] Supreme Court has allowed the politicized attorney general to intentionally mislead the public,” Allen said.

The increase to the gas taxes and vehicle fees approved last April by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown will generate more than $5.2 billion annually to repair the state’s bridges and roads, and expand mass transit systems.

A group of civic and business leaders called Fix Our Roads supports the gas tax increases. The coalition, which includes the California Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement Friday: “The lackluster support for this ballot initiative is not surprising. This initiative, plus the other similar ballot measure, are transparent, partisan attempts by some politicians to further their political ambitions – at the expense of needed road safety repairs.”  

The initiative that has received financial backing from Cox has collected 400,000 of the 580,000 signatures needed to qualify a constitutional amendment for the November ballot. That measure would not only repeal the gas tax but require future gas tax increases to be approved by the voters.

"The hard-pressed working families of California can take comfort that tax relief is on the way,” said Cox, honorary state chairman of the campaign, on Friday. Cox has given $250,000 to the petition drive.

Allen said he would ask supporters who signed his petition to sign the one circulated by a coalition including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio and several Republican members of Congress from Californiam including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).

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