The Oregon branch of the American Automobile Assn. is gearing up for an aggressive grass-roots campaign to defeat a proposal that would eliminate the state's weight-distance tax for trucks.

The issue, which will appear as Measure 82 on the May ballot, would raise the state's gas tax by 5 cents per gallon along with replacing the weight-distance tax with a diesel fuel tax and higher truck registration fees. The measure was passed by the state Legislature last summer and was supposed to go into effect in October, but AAA staged a petition-signing drive to put the proposal to a public vote, saying the weight-distance tax is the only way to be sure trucks are paying their fair share.
The AAA will form a political action committee to raise and spend campaign contributions. While the group says it probably can't match the $3 million to $5 million the trucking industry and other supporters plan to spend to promote the measure, early polls show two-thirds of voters are against the gas tax increase. Oregon voters have never approved a gas tax increase.