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2018 electionBallot measures

Lawsuit alleges state is trying to sabotage initiative to repeal gas tax increase in California

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) wants to repeal the gas tax increase approved by the governor in April. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) wants to repeal the gas tax increase approved by the governor in April. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The state attorney general allegedly drafted a misleading title and summary for an initiative that would repeal increases to California’s gas tax, and the wording should be changed, according to a lawsuit filed Friday by supporters of the proposed ballot measure.

The lawsuit alleges the title and summary drafted by the office of Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra is "a nakedly partisan attempt to derail what Petitioner expects to be an initiative of considerable public interest."

Attorneys for Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) and other proponents of the initiative asked a Sacramento Superior Court judge to alter the title and summary so those asked to sign petitions can better understand that they are repealing the gas tax.

“This is an intentional misrepresentation of the initiative by Atty. Gen. Becerra with an agenda to deceive the voters of California,” Allen said.  “Californians have a right to an honest description of the initiative, and we have filed a lawsuit today in Superior Court to make sure voters get the transparency they deserve.”

Allen needs to collect 365,000 signatures of registered voters in 150 days to qualify a measure for the November 2018 ballot that would repeal SB 1, which increases gas taxes and vehicle fees to raise $5.2 billion annually for road repairs and mass transit. The tax measure was signed in April by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The title and summary are placed at the top of petitions that will be circulated to qualify the initiative for the ballot, so misleading descriptions may convince some voters not to sign, Allen said.

The title drafted by the attorney general says the proposed initiative “Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes."

The lawsuit objects that the title of the initiative makes no use of the words “tax” or “fee.”

Allen, who is running for governor in 2018, also objected that the summary says that the ballot measure "Eliminates Independent Office of Audits and Investigations, which is responsible for ensuring accountability in the use of revenue for transportation projects."

Such an office is called for in the gas-tax law but does not yet exist.

"The title and summary clearly explain the ballot initiative," said Chris Moyer, a spokesman for the attorney general, in response to Allen's complaint.

Allen hopes to get a court decision in three to four weeks.

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