California Increases Gas Tax Again

Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom told residents last week that the state legislature was going to miss the deadline that came and passed on Sunday to kill an increase to the 51-cent gas tax.

The state’s per gallon tax was already the nation’s highest, and Newsom went back on a promise made in January to halt any further increases. The governor said at the time that he would ensure any increase would be suspended in response as some relief from the nation’s highest gas prices and taxes.

The average price of a gallon of gas in California currently stands at $5.74 per gallon, compared to the national average of $4.19.

Newsom issued a press statement saying it was “clear now that the Legislature will not act in time” to put a hold on the planned tax hike in advance of the summer season. He said that although drivers would not receive immediate, although limited, relief, he would continue to work with lawmakers on a proposal for “direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices.”

California Republicans have been attempting to advance a bill to suspend the entire state gas tax for at least eight months. Democrats have blocked that measure, claiming concerns over lost revenue to the state. However, the state is currently running a $46 billion budget surplus which is expected to go up by as much as $23 billion after state income taxes are collected.

Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong is a member of the legislature’s Transportation Committee and said that Newsom and Democrats have shown “no sense of urgency” to provide any relief to residents. He said the governor is allowing prices to go up even though he knows Californians are “being crushed” by high gas prices and inflation.

Fong noted that the state assembly has acted on multiple transportation issues in recent weeks but has ignored the gas tax, which he described as “mind boggling and tone deaf.”

Despite the legislature’s failure to act on suspending the gas tax increase, Newsom could issue an executive order if he chose to. He has previously ordered large expenditures on COVID-19 relief items without legislative approval.

Rather than lifting the gas tax, Newsom has proposed a $400 gas tax rebate through a direct payment to the state’s registered vehicle owners. That proposal has bogged down, and even if it were enacted it is expected it would not do anything to reduce gas prices in the state.