Even a pandemic and economic crisis are not enough to stop California from raising its gas tax again. Starting on July 1, the state is hitting taxpayers with another $440 million in higher gas taxes, even as nearly three million workers are unemployed. This tone-deaf move rubs salt into the wounds of California residents who are struggling from the fallout of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Unfortunately, Sacramento Democrats continue to pile onto struggling families and small businesses that are seeking relief from the high cost burdens of living and working in this state.
In 2017, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which included a provision that increases gas taxes automatically without a vote of the Legislature or the public. This automatic gas tax increase will continue to go up into perpetuity — think about that. I have called upon the governor and Legislature to put a freeze on all tax and fee increases so that we can give opportunity for Californians to recover, but they refused and increased taxes another $9 billion in the most recent state budget.
As Vice Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, I have watched California mismanage its transportation funds for years. And taxpayers are always asked to make up the difference. It was only a month ago that Gov. Gavin Newsom tried to raid $130 million from the State Highway Account tax account and move it to the state’s general fund. The state is still wasting money on the multi-billion dollar, mismanaged high-speed rail project.
And it’s about to get even worse. We can expect even higher prices to gasoline due to Sacramento’s plan to manipulate the state’s convoluted cap and trade program, another regulatory program that will also increase the cost of electricity and natural gas. California’s leaders should ask themselves if this is the time is to pile on even higher energy costs.
The best thing the state can do right now is to create a moratorium on all new taxes and all regulations that do not directly deal with COVID-19. Hitting the pause button is needed when there is already so much uncertainty.
The latest gas tax increase and manipulation of the cap and trade program are two symptoms of a broken system. It never seems to be a priority when it comes time to provide relief to working and middle-class families. Sacramento needs to serve its citizens, not itself.
It’s not too late for Gov. Newsom and his allies in the Legislature to give Californians a much-deserved break from higher gas taxes. The governor has suspended a number of laws and created a handful on his own. A once in a generation crisis should be reason enough to give drivers a break. Apparently not in Sacramento.
Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, represents the 34th Assembly District.