Why California Business Leaders are Fighting to Save the Gas Tax Increase

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“The roads are pretty miserable here in California. They’ve been neglected for quite some time,” said Allan Zaremberg, president and chief executive officer of CalChamber. “The economy depends on people being able to get to work in their cars and buses and being able to move goods.”

The business community has always been supportive of what it considers “necessary infrastructure investment,” Zaremberg said. In January, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce proposed hiking the federal gas tax 5 cents per year for the next five years to raise money for upgrades to highways, bridges and transit systems.

Zaremberg points out that nearly every aspect of the California economy relies on having usable roads: the transfer of goods from busy ports and warehouses to retailers, emerging sectors like on-demand rides and food delivery, and even tourists driving to San Francisco or Disneyland.

“We have to have a transportation system that allows us to sustain those jobs,” he said.

And this is the fairest way to do it, he argues. While the CalChamber usually objects to taxes that target just the business community or one industry and nobody else, Zaremberg said raising the gas tax is similar to a user fee, because it costs more the more you drive: “You get something in return equal to what you pay.”

CalChamber and dozens of local business associations have already joined the campaign against the repeal measure, which will appear on the ballot this fall as Proposition 6.