Partisans load both barrels in battle over gas tax – Orange County Register

The Buzz is the Register’s weekly political news column.

The unrelenting legal and legislative tit-for-tat over Gov. Jerry Brown’s $52-billion road-improvement plan — and the accompanying tax and fee hikes — is a model of partisans unwilling to surrender an inch, apparently stemming from the belief that one inch could decide the battle.

And they might be right.

The roads plan, which is scheduled to increase the gas tax by 12-cents-per-gallon beginning November and hike annual car registration costs by an average of about $50, was approved in April with the two-thirds state legislative majority required for new taxes — and not a vote to spare. That spurred a petition for a recall election for state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, who’s district is considered the most vulnerable to a Republican challenger. Without a Democrat in that seat, that party no longer has a two-thirds majority.

Sacramento Democrats responded by changing recall rules in a way that could push a recall election to a date more favorable Democrats. Recall backers counter-punched with lawsuit challenging the legality of the rule change. And the Democrat-controlled state Fair Political Practices Commission on Thursday gave preliminary approval to lifting the $4,400-contribution limit for recall candidates, dismissing its attorney’s recommendation to the contrary to side with Senate Democrats’ argument that the limit was unfair because there’s no limit on contributions for recall advocates.

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