Motorists would have to pay an extra 1 percent of their car's value, more than double the current vehicle license fee. Proponents say the money would be used exclusively for transportation programs.
"Our initiative dedicates money for that purpose: To fix existing streets and roads, to fix existing state highways and to help repair and replace transit vehicles," said Kempton, executive director of Transportation California. Kempton served as director of Caltrans from 2004 to 2009.
Kempton says money from the current gasoline tax is going down as people drive more fuel-efficient cars. The proposed car-tax surcharge could bring in $3- to $4-billion a year.
"We're seeing a decline in gas tax revenues, a loss of purchasing power. We need to do something differently. And these dollars will be dedicated for a specific purpose, and a purpose that the public recognizes as very needed," said Kempton.
"That's going to be about as welcome with taxpayers as a skunk in a space capsule," said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Opponents say the government already has money that is set aside for road repairs, and they question raising more fees.
"We do have potholes, we do have infrastructure problems, but we must demand that Sacramento make better use of those significant dollars that we already provide," said Vosburgh.
The last time the Vehicle License Fee went up, the backlash led to the recall of Governor Gray Davis.
Proponents say the roads are currently in such bad shape that it's costing the average Californian $600 a year in repairs. They say they've taken polls and believe that taxpayers do want this. The next step would be to gather signatures to get the proposal placed on the November ballot.