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Panel Delays 2 Proposals to Increase Gasoline Tax

Times Staff Writer

Proposals to increase the state’s gasoline tax stalled in the Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday as both Democrats and Republicans sought more time to work out a compromise with a hesitant Gov. George Deukmejian.

The legislative measures--one by Assembly Democrats and another by Republican Assemblyman David G. Kelley of Hemet--would increase the state’s 9-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax without a vote of the people. Deukmejian has insisted that any gas tax increase must have voter approval.

Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), the committee chairman, said he had agreed to a request from Minority Leader Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) to delay the critical committee vote until after the “transportation summit” that Deukmejian has scheduled today with state government, business and labor leaders.

Time for Talks

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“There are negotiations still going on and he (Johnson) doesn’t feel it’s a good idea to go ahead with these bills until this (summit) is over,” said Johnson’s press secretary, Ann Richards.

At a similar summit last month, there was unanimous agreement that the state’s transportation system would need an additional $20 billion over the next decade to reduce congestion and keep pace with population growth.

But there was sharp disagreement on the avenues to be used for raising new revenue. Legislative leaders held out for a substantial increases in the gasoline tax and truck registration fees, arguing that government leaders alone should shoulder the responsibility for approving the tax hikes. Deukmejian repeated his demand for voter approval of a gas tax increase.

Voters’ Opposition

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A recent statewide poll indicated that voters, given the choice, would reject any substantial increase in the gasoline tax. Lawmakers have said privately that without some compromise with the governor, there is little hope that they can pass any measure that would provide additional revenue for transportation during the current legislative session.

“It makes sense to have a consensus in place first before you advance any given bill,” said Deukmejian’s press secretary, Kevin Brett. “Ross (Johnson) is aware that if a consensus is going to emerge on the issue of transportation it is going to emerge through this (summit) process.”


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