Californians are deciding Tuesday whether to repeal an increase in fuel taxes and vehicle fees that is expected to fund $52 billion in transportation projects over a decade.

Proposition 6 is backed by Republicans who argue that life in the Golden State has become too expensive and that California should spend its money more efficiently to meet transportation needs.

Opponents, including construction industry leaders and unions, contend the $5 billion a year in new revenues are critical to fix aging freeways and bridges and improve transit.

The Legislature, led by Democrats, passed the tax measure last year.

The repeal initiative proposed by San Diego talk radio host Carl DeMaio has been touted by Republican Congressional candidates in a bid to boost GOP voter turnout in the state where President Donald Trump has low approval ratings.

DeMaio led a successful recall campaign earlier this year against a Democratic state lawmaker from Orange County who voted for the fuel tax increase.

If approved, the ballot measure would also require the consent of voters for any future gas tax increases.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the transportation deal last year. Much of the money is generated through a 12 cent-per-gallon boost in gasoline excise taxes that took effect last November.

Republicans and Democrats agree that California needs a transportation overhaul as suburban commuters clamor for freeway fixes and city dwellers demand mass transit, but they differ on where the money should come from.

Protestors gather at a rally and hold signs on behalf of a campaign against Proposition 6 during a visit and support by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday Nov. 2, 2018 in Palo Alto, Calif. Proposition 6, which would repeal an increase in gas tax and vehicle fees for transportation projects in California. (AP Photo/Janie Har)
Protestors gather at a rally and hold signs on behalf of a campaign against Proposition 6 during a visit and support by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday Nov. 2, 2018 in Palo Alto, Calif. Proposition 6, which would repeal an increase in gas tax and vehicle fees for transportation projects in California. (AP Photo/Janie Har)

Those who support the initiative argue that California ought to use existing funds for transportation improvements.

“Home prices are going up, gas prices are going up, car registration prices are going up, and it just doesn’t feel like Sacramento is working for everyday Californians,” said Bill Essayli, a Republican state Assembly candidate in Riverside County, noting that the fuel tax increase helped spur his run for office.

Opponents contend there aren’t enough funds to keep up with the transportation needs of California’s 40 million people. Over the past two decades, cars have become more fuel efficient — a boon for the environment but a challenge to transportation budgets as drivers need less gasoline.

Sandra Weis, a 58-year-old executive assistant from Huntington Beach, said she supports the increased tax revenues as a way to have decent roads for her daily 10-mile (16-kilometer) commute. She said she’s tired of people complaining about taxes yet demanding services that cost the state money.

“California is the most ridiculously expensive state to live in — but it’s also the best state to live in,” she said.

Proponents argued during the campaign that the measure was assigned a misleading ballot title — “eliminates certain road repair” — that doesn’t immediately tell voters that it’s a repeal proposal.

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Source: The Associated Press

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