Our View | Can’t Afford Gas? State Says Eat Cake

Our View

By The Signal Editorial Board

Next time you’re filling your gas tank and lamenting the high cost, remember this: 

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democrat supermajority in the Legislature just don’t care.

What other conclusion can be drawn, when the Legislature and the governor have done nothing in the past 100 days to provide Californians relief at the pump, at a time when the state is flush with surplus cash and the state’s residents already pay the highest gasoline taxes in the nation?

Those taxes are due to go up — again — in just two weeks’ time, as a 2.8-cent increase in the state’s excise tax on gasoline is set to take effect July 1.

That increase will bring the state’s excise tax to 53.9 cents per gallon — having tripled since 2010, when it was 18 cents.

Add this to the state’s sales taxes on gasoline, and Californians are paying around 70 cents per gallon in state taxes. 

No wonder we have the highest gas prices in the nation. As of Friday, the cheapest gas in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to gasbuddy.com, was $6.04 at either Costco or Sam’s Club. If you’re not a member of either of those, most other gas stations are charging $6.20 or more per gallon. 

With the recent hike in gas prices across the nation — and that’s mostly thanks to the Joe Biden administration’s energy policies, no matter how much the president wants to blame Vladimir Putin — Californians and some legislators have been calling for relief.

The “progressive” solution is to fast-track forcing everyone out of their gasoline-powered cars. Let us know when the average Californian can afford a Tesla — the cheapest model starts at $46,000 and change — and we can start talking about all of the other problems with that idea, including limited range, the reliability of the power grid and availability of charging stations, not to mention the environmental issues of dealing with all those batteries once they’re expired. 

Is it conceivable we’ll all be in electric cars someday? Sure, but we’re not there yet.

Meanwhile, the governor has floated some ideas — including rebates and debit cards that would be distributed many months in the future — but they’ve been dead on arrival at the Legislature, and no one with the actual power to make decisions really seems all that interested in making anything happen other than empty rhetoric.

Among those calling out the Legislature’s Democrat majority and the governor are two legislators who represent the Santa Clarita Valley: Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita.

“The governor is living in an election-year Fantasyland if he believes promises of debit cards and rebates in the fall will provide relief NOW,” Wilk, the Senate Republican leader, said recently in a prepared statement. “Even the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office agrees with Republicans that suspending the gas tax would be the quickest way to give families immediate relief from soaring gas prices. The governor and Democratic leaders should take a page out of the Republican playbook and suspend the gas tax immediately.”

Wilk and other members of the Senate Republican Caucus have called for a full gas tax holiday, asking the state to immediately suspend the gas tax to reduce the cost of fuel for families suffering from record-high prices. 

The state can afford it. California’s surplus, according to calmatters.org, is $97.5 billion. That’s billion with a “B.” As Wilk pointed out, the gas tax revenues could be backfilled from the surplus so transportation projects wouldn’t be impacted.

Valladares was among a group of Assembly Republicans who held a press conference this week calling out the governor and the legislative majority for 100 days of inaction on the gas price crisis.

“It has been 100 days since the governor promised in his State of the State speech to provide Californians with relief from soaring gas prices, but families are still struggling,” Valladares said in a prepared statement. “He has introduced proposals, the majority party has introduced proposals, and I have joined my colleagues in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to introduce a bill that ensures the gas tax cut will go directly to consumers. But we have seen no action from the majority leadership in the Legislature or any sense of urgency from the governor.”

Valladares said she knows single moms who are only filling half of their gas tanks so they can have  money left to feed their children. 

And, she told the story of a contractor who has found the prices crippling to his livelihood: “Manny, a local floor installer, is spending $150 to fill up his truck twice a week,” she said. “He needs his truck to work, so he can’t switch to an electric vehicle. He’s even spent the night in his truck to save money on the commute.”

And, she said, she recently heard from a CSUN commuter student who was spending $200 a week on gas to get to school. “It’s so bad that he sometimes skips class because gas is just too expensive. These are real people who are struggling and they need real solutions, now.”

Wilk and Valladares are right. Californians need relief, now. Not six months from now, and not “maybe, if legislative leadership and the governor can ever get on the same page.”

It’s a simple solution. California’s gas taxes are the highest in the nation and the state is sitting on a massive budget surplus. 

The governor and the Capitol’s most influential Democrats should cancel — not delay, cancel — the July 1 tax increase, and temporarily suspend the entirety of the existing 51.1-cent excise tax to help struggling Californians at least move a little closer to being on even financial footing with the rest of the country.

We don’t believe they’ll do it. We don’t believe they really care, because no matter what their rhetoric says, their inaction says, “Let them eat cake.” 

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