SACRAMENTO -- Heather Nelson is one of tens of thousands of drivers who are struggling with high gas prices due to the 12-cents-a-gallon gas tax.
"It affects my business. I have to drive all day long," Nelson said.
Governor Jerry Brown pulled off a political coup by cobbling together the support of labor, business groups and local governments. This time last year, he used an analogy for why fixing roads and transportation systems was long overdue.
"Yes, it costs money. If the roof on your house is leaking, you better fix it. If you don’t fix the leak your furniture will be ruined," Brown said.
But the backlash has been huge as gas prices have soared in recent months.
Nearly a million signatures were gathered by anti-tax interests to place it on the ballot in November. It fed on feelings of distrust of politicians and big government.
"Shame of the politicians for raising the tax. Shame on the politicians for stealing our money for these many years and not fixing our roads," said Carl DeMaio, chair of Reform California.
Republican candidate for governor John Cox has jumped into the fray, echoing claims of government waste and fraud.
"When I'm the governor of the state we’re going to build a lot of roads, but we’re not going to do it by raising taxes," he said. "We’re going to start using our money efficiently."
It’s a powerful issue that Cox believes will help his underdog status against Democratic opponent Gavin Newsom, who enthusiastically supports the gas tax.
"I am going to lead a government that lives within its means and reduces the burden on working Californians," Cox said.
"Republicans are in desperate shape," said former Democratic lawmaker and Executive Director of Transportation California Roger Dickinson.
Dickinson says the gas tax boosts the economy and makes roads and bridges safer.
"They are latching onto whatever issue that they think can help them, regardless of the merits of that issue," Dickinson said.
When a reporter tried to ask Cox about his stand on climate change, immigration and other parts of his platform, he declined to answer.
"This is all about the gas tax. We'll address the other issues when they come up," he said.