California Abandoned Measure of Using Gas Tax for Budget

Mon February 18, 2008 - West Edition

LOS ANGELES (AP) Californians rejected a transportation funding measure Feb. 5, heeding the plan’s authors who put it on the ballot and then abandoned it saying it was no longer necessary.

The measure failed 43 to 57 percent, with 41 percent of precincts reporting.

The measure would have amended the state’s constitution to prohibit California lawmakers from raiding gasoline tax money to balance the budget.

The California Alliance for Jobs, Transportation California and other leading road construction advocates had long sought the measure to keep road funding stable from year to year. The groups gathered almost 1 million signatures in 2006 to put it on the ballot. But they then used those signatures to prod Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature to agree to put a similar, though less stringent, measure before voters.

The plan worked, and later that year voters approved Proposition 1A, which limits borrowing of gas tax money to twice in any 10-year period and only during fiscal emergencies.

There was just one problem: The transportation groups already had turned in enough signatures to qualify the tougher measure for the ballot. Lawmakers called it a double cross. The transportation groups said it was a mistake and campaigned against it.

The measure looked similar, but differed technically from Proposition 1A. It would have eliminated lawmakers’ ability to borrow gas tax money for purposes other than transportation, not just twice in any 10 year period.