Quantcast

Prop. 26 repeals new fuel laws

Lisa Olivia Fitch | 10/27/2010, 5 p.m.

Proposition 26 proposes that state laws which result in any taxpayers paying higher taxes must require approval by two-thirds of the state Legislature or by local voters instead of a simple majority in the Legislature.

This law would repeal the recent fuel tax laws and increase state general fund costs by about $1 billion annually, according to the legislative analysts' estimate.

Currently there are a myriad of oil recycling fees, hazardous materials fees and fees on alcohol retailers. Businesses that pay these fees are actually paying for toxic waste site clean-ups, inspections of used oil recycling facilities and used oil collection.

Those who oppose Proposition 26--including the League of Women Voters, the American Lung Association and Sierra Club California--insist that polluters are the only ones who will be protected, if the proposition passes.

Other entities urging a no vote on the proposition include the Committee to Protect the Political Rights of Minorities, and the California State NAACP.

"Pollution fees on public nuisances would be become much harder to enact," they write in the voters guide. "Companies that pollute, harm the public health, or create a public nuisance should be required to pay to cover the damage they cause."

"The problem isn't taxes 'hidden' as fees; it's the oil and tobacco companies hiding their true motives," the argument against Proposition 26 says, adding that if passed the initiative will harm local public safety and health, by requiring expensive litigation and endless elections in order for local government to provide basic services like fighting air pollution, cleaning up environmental disasters and monitoring hazardous waste.

Those who want to see Proposition 26 pass include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Occidental Petroleum, Chevron, The California Taxpayers Association, and the California Chamber of Commerce.

In their argument in favor of the proposition, they write, "Local politicians play tricks on voters by disguising taxes as 'fees' so they don't have to ask voters for approval."

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which represents large, medium and small businesses in five Southern California counties, also supports the measure, writing in its guide that "The State Legislature seeks to increase taxes by calling them "fees" which only requires a simple majority."

The California Taxpayers Association insists that Proposition 26 will close a loophole and plainly define what a tax is and what a fee is.

"The state can still raise, as needed, the fees charged hunters and fishers to cover the costs of wildlife management, users of state parks to cover the costs of maintenance and upkeep, and drivers for processing licenses and vehicle plates," they write on their website.

"But state and local agencies will no longer be able to charge exorbitant fees that are far and above the cost of the activity at hand, and then funnel that money into their general funds or for other purposes. That's the sort of deceptive behavior Proposition 26 will end."