California Gov. Jerry Brown delivered a rousing defense of the new gas tax and vehicle fee increases today in Los Angeles, casting the debate over a repeal effort as a battle of broad proportions.
“Are we responsible enough to pay for what we need... this is the test of any civilization,” he said at Mobility 21, a conference at Union Station of state and local transportation officials examining California's aging infrastructure.
The meeting comes as opponents of S.B. 1, the measure approved last year that implements new gas and diesel fuel taxes and higher vehicle fees, are pushing a Republican-driven effort to repeal the legislation.
Supporters of the repeal say they gathered 940,000 signatures from registered voters in support of placing the proposal on the general election ballot. About 590,000 names will need verification before voters see the repeal proposal on the ballot.
Brown and other officials are heavily resisting the effort to rescind the taxes and fees, which political observers say appeals to Republicans and could draw them to the polls for this year's election.
Southern California projects were awarded more than $1.2 billion in S.B. 1 funds this week with $700 million going to Los Angeles County alone. The awards will help fund improvements to heavily congested freeways, trucking routes, and several transit projects like the Gold Line to Montclair and a rail connection to LAX.
Cities and counties will also get funding to fix local roads.
Repeal proponents say Californians already pay some of the highest taxes and gas prices in the country and money should be cut from other programs to pay for repairs.
Not everyone there fell in lockstep with the governor. A small group of protesters showed up outside the conference to oppose Brown's environmental and energy policies:
Environmental activists protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s energy policies at Union Station. pic.twitter.com/HbbbaH6j23— Sharon McNary (@KPCCsharon) May 18, 2018
This story has been updated.