Yesterday the State Assembly passed Asm. Mike Feuer‘s A.B. 2558, the controversial piece of legislation that would allow voters to increase fees on drivers whose vehicles produce the greatest amount of pollution, despite unanimous opposition by the Republican caucus.
The bill now moves to the Senate where it needs to be passed by committee and the full body before going to the Governor’s desk. Before either the gas tax or vehicle registration fees are increased in LA County, a measure would have to be placed on the fall ballot by Metro and passed by a majority of LA County voters. All fees collected by the legislation would be dedicated to transportation projects.
Despite the heated opposition the bill faced before its hearing in committee, the bill’s passage by the full Assembly wouldn’t have garnered the meager press it did without a blistering attack by the Assembly Republicans.
The thrust of the partisan opposition comes in two forms. First, the Republicans argue that raising gas taxes now would "hurt working families already struggling to make ends meet especially hard, and will do nothing to reduce the impact of climate change on our state."
Second, there is debate whether Feuer’s legislation is constitutional. The bill requires a majority vote of Los Angeles County voters before either the gas tax or vehicle registration fees are increased. Assembly Republicans argue that any tax increase would require a 2/3 vote by the state constitution. Feuer argues that this isn’t a tax increase as much as it is a fee on driver’s who choose to engage in environmentally irresponsible decisions.
Assuming the legislation passes the Senate, it creates an interesting dilemma for Governor Schwarzenegger. Will the Governor, who’s taken an international star turn as a green advocate against greenhouse gases while commuting daily between Los Angeles and Sacramento by private jet, veto legislation that could dramatically decrease greenhouse pollution? Or will he buck state Republican party leaders who have managed to get every Assembly Republican to vote against the bill both in committee and on the Assembly floor?