Gov. Gavin Newsom has mastered the art of political spin. Just this week while on a junket to China, he claimed to have not really locked down anything in California during the pandemic, in fact asserting that much of it really wasn’t in his control. That isn’t quite how I remember things, and I am certain that isn’t how most of you remember it, either.
But that is what Newsom does – and the pandemic isn’t the only thing he is defensive about.
Another bit of political hyperbole and theater is Newsom’s attack on California energy producers for excessive profits. Newsom puts the blame squarely on those entities as responsible for raising costs while completely ignoring a big part of the high gas cost story: California’s role in the gas price gouging.
Let’s look at the big picture regarding the high cost of gasoline. Oil companies profited about 14 cents per gallon of gas. You can be the judge of whether that is excessive or not, but let’s put that number into context with other contributors to our gas prices. The federal government collects approximately 18 cents per gallon of gas from consumers. What does this money go to and is it needed by Washington, D.C.? Again, a question whose answer can be debated by reasonable people.
Now for the shock. The state of California collects approximately $1.08 in taxes and fees per gallon of gasoline you pump. That is five times more than the federal government and eight times greater than oil company profits.
So, let’s just put it out there for Gov. Newsom: Is California’s gas tax gouging Californians? At minimum, the answer is that California’s gas tax profit is massive, all while families grapple with inflation from every direction.
As people commute to and from work, school drop-offs and pick-ups, youth sporting events, and so many other things, the hit to California’s driving families eats away at monthly family budgets. Politicians like Gavin Newsom get to pad the state government’s bank account with a sky-high gas tax.
When I served in the Legislature, I proposed, at minimum, pausing the California gas tax while the economy has trended downward, and costs have gone up. Families needed the relief then, and they need the relief now.
California can easily lower its gas tax and bring it more in line with the rest of the country and continue to have plenty of funds to pay for road and highway repair.
But the gas tax isn’t just about what we all personally pay at the pump. Every product, food item, delivery service faces rising costs due to the high cost of California’s gas. That cost is then passed along to every consumer, and we see it in higher grocery bills, household product prices, and everything else that needs to be transported by anything reliant on California gas pumps.
So, when Gov. Gavin Newsom points fingers at everyone else, he is at the height of hypocrisy if he doesn’t also point the finger for California’s high cost of living back at himself.
But what else should we expect from a politician who apparently doesn’t remember his own pandemic lockdowns?
The fact is that California, particularly the Los Angeles region, remains one of the most expensive places to live in the entire world. And when we look at the cause, the price of gas is right up there as public enemy No. 1. We can simply buy in to the Newsom finger-pointing narrative, or instead, find and offer different solutions that will put much this needed money back in the pockets of California’s drivers.
One thing is certain: People are fed up with the cost, and California’s price gouging. Momentum is building to lower or get rid of California’s gas tax altogether. It’s an idea I’ve been solidly behind for years and one whose time is long overdue.
California families simply need and deserve a break. The first place to start is lowering the price of gas.
Suzette Martinez Valladares is Santa Clarita’s former assemblywoman, wife, girl mom, avid DIY’er and a monthly contributor to The Signal’s “Right, Here Right Now,” which appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.