HomeEnvironment & Climate NewsCA Democrats Abandon Gas Tax Holiday; Announce New Committee to Investigate Gas...

CA Democrats Abandon Gas Tax Holiday; Announce New Committee to Investigate Gas Price Gouging

By Katy Grimes

“Friday marked 100 days of diddling by California’s supermajority party to provide relief at the pump for the state’s drivers from the record high gas prices,” the Globe reported Monday, ahead of the announcement by Assembly Democrats that rather than suspending California’s highest-in-the-nation gas taxes, they are going to “investigate” the state’s highest-in-the-nation gas prices. They are looking for a culprit.

Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) offered his retort with this: “Easy to read investigative report into how government is adding $1.30 to each gallon of gas in CA.”

 

And that state excise tax is going up to 53.9 cents July 1st, because as we learned Monday from Assembly Democrats, it’s too late to suspend the July 1st gas tax increase. It had to have been done 60 days ago.

Why wasn’t the July 1st gas tax increase suspended 60 days ago? Inquiring minds want to know.

Rather than address immediate solutions, Assembly Democrats Monday announced the creation of a new select committee to investigate whether the state’s oil and gas “profiteers” are price gouging. This is pitiful given that going back to last year at this time, Democrats vowed to take action to help working and poor Californians struggling to pay for gas, but have done absolutely nothing except talk about it.

“It’s no secret Californians are enduring pain at the pump,” Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) said. “California leaders must protect consumers from harm.”  Suspending the gas tax is a good place to start, but she offered no concrete solutions – just her feelings and concerns.

The Assembly Democrats’ press conference claiming “gas price gouging” was a lot of non-commitments among elected lawmakers – lots of “we feel your pain” moments. But hey Californians, we have a new select committee to investigate the state’s high gas prices – by going after big oil.

Lawmakers said they find the high gas prices “outrageous,” and “unacceptable,” and claimed “we are doing everything in our power to provide you relief.”

Apparently Assembly Democrats are powerless, because all they have done so far is clutch at their pearls and speak in dulcet tones of their empathy and concern as they are driven in a dark SUV to and from the airport. “We are all Democrats and on the same team,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). She said Democrats are committed to a decision and fix on gas price gouging.

And that’s all she said.

With this new select committee, they can now order oil company executives to hearings and demand they open their books to show evidence of their “profiteering.”

This is what’s known as a diversion, an aberration, a deviation from the crux of the issue. (See graphic above)

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles) talked of Californians “addiction of the gas-powered engine,” and said Chevron and Shell are “ripping off consumers.”

Republicans have consistently proposed a solution for relief at the pump – suspend the gas taxes. “The price of gas has been crushing family budgets for months,” Assemblyman Republican Leader Gallagher said in response to the Democrats’ press conference. “If Capitol Democrats were really doing everything in their power to lower gas prices, they would support our call to suspend the gas tax and halt the scheduled July 1st increase. Californians don’t need another dead-end study, they need relief now.”

“Senate Republicans have been calling for gas tax relief for a year, and keeping the pressure on is paying off. Consumers are fed-up, and Democrats are scrambling to compensate with a ‘Hail Mary’ pass on gas tax relief, said Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk.”
Wilk provided some of the policies implemented in California that drive up the cost of gasoline:
  • 51.1 cents – State gas tax (add an additional 3 cents starting July 1.)
  • 25 cents – Cap and Trade (estimate)
  • 22 cents – Low Carbon Fuel Standard (estimate)
  • 2 cents – Underground Storage Fee
  • 10-15 cents – California’s switch to summer-blend costs more to produce than other types of gasoline. Source.
  • 14.4 cents – State sales tax (estimate based on 6/20 average price)

Sen. Wilk noted that some Assembly Democrats are also joining Republicans in calling for a pause in the scheduled July 1 gas tax increase. “These are the same Democrats who failed earlier this year to suspend this increase when presented the opportunity. Senate Republicans proposed this idea last year, again in January, May, and last week.”

A curious presence at the Democrats’ press conference was Robert Herrell, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California. He assured everyone that California gas taxes are much lower here in the state than other parts of the world (See what he did… very shifty). And then he said he is “unwilling to trade California’s cleaner form of gas,” (meaning no cutting July 1 gas tax increase on the summer blend), because it’s for the climate.

He did offer a very sound suggestion to cut the “mystery gas surcharge” of .30 cents which remains a tax on California gas, a holdover from the 2015 Torrence Refinery fire.

He added this zinger at the end: “The current budget proposal is much closer to the Consumer Federation of California position,” as a nod to no relief from California’s high gas taxes. As was announced last week, the California Legislature passed a sham $300 billion budget (just so they wouldn’t lose their pay), with no gas tax relief included in it. And this is even with a $95 billion budget surplus.

“Even Joe Biden now wants to suspend the gas tax. Newsom and the Legislature are officially out of excuses and need to enact my bill immediately,” Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) Tweeted. In March Kiley introduced AB 1638 to suspend the 51 cent gas tax for six months. Democrats hijacked his bill, but he’s not giving up.

“Rather than launching a new ‘investigation,’ Governor Newsom and legislative leaders need to immediately suspend our state gas tax, which is almost 3 times higher than the federal tax.”

Kiley added: “A federal gas tax holiday would save drivers over 18 cents per gallon at the pump. If California suspended its gas tax as well, drivers would save an additional 51 cents for a total of nearly 70 cents per gallon in savings. The Penn Wharton Budget Model released last week shows “evidence that recent suspensions of state gasoline taxes in three states were mostly passed onto consumers.”

Last week Kiley Tweeted this prophetic statement: “Democrat Legislators have written a strongly worded letter demanding an investigation into the ‘real’ causes of high gas prices. This is not satire.”

Democrats are posturing and posing because they have no plan other than to attempt to look busy doing something. But even that is wearing very thin.

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

Originally published by the California Globe. Republished with permission.

For more on California politics and policies, click here.

For more on gasoline taxes, click here.

Katy Grimes
Katy Grimes
Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California's War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

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