In California Sunday, March 20, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $5.85, 37% higher than the national average. In Riverside County, it was $5.86 per gallon, but in other areas of California the price per gallon exceeded $6 per gallon and approached $6.50 in Mono County.
While the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and President Joseph Biden’s stopping imports of Russian fuel have driven prices up sharply in the past two weeks, many people are looking for help from the government — much like in the COVID-19 aid.
Gov. Gavin Newsom alluded to some relief in his March 8 State of State address. “Look, no one’s naive about the moment we’re living in, with high gas prices and the geopolitical uncertainty fueling them.
“In January we proposed to pause the gas tax increase. Now, it’s clear we must go further. That’s why — working with Legislative leadership — I’ll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians, to address rising gas prices,” Newsom continued.
The details of how and how much money would be returned to Californians’ pockets have been scarce in the past two weeks.
Current state tax on gasoline is 51 cents per gallon and fuel supplies pay that. It is indexed to inflation rates and will increase by 3 cents July 1.
In his January budget proposal, Newsom suggested this increase of 3 cents could be repealed for this year, which would cost the government about $525 million for road and infrastructure projects. Further, there is no guarantee that gas suppliers, who pay the tax, would commensurately reduce the price of gas.
Early last week, Californian Republican legislators proposed rescinding the full gas tax for the year. This didn’t move forward.
Thursday, March 17, a group of state legislators suggested sending a $400 tax rebate to California taxpayers.
“Soaring gas prices are hitting Californians at the pump. We know our constituents are hurting,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine). “That is why we are here today to announce a proposal to deliver a $400 tax rebate for California taxpayers. To put this in context, for most vehicles, for most Californians, this $400 rebate is equivalent to a one-year gas tax holiday.”
In the news conference, Petrie-Norris said their hope is to get the rebate to Californians this spring and they would discuss the proposal with the Newsom administration.
While bipartisanship is tenuous on this issue — Democrats stopped Republican Kevin Kiley’s bill to suspend the full gas tax ‚ Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher wrote on his Facebook page about the rebate proposal: “Capitol Democrat’s Plan = Everyone gets a check from the government at some undetermined date in the future…Whether you own a car, or not. Whether you use gas, or not. Whether you are a billionaire, or not.”
The rebate proposal is favored as a means to get the relief directly to the public rather that reducing the tax for suppliers who may not pass it onto drivers. Initial estimates of the cost are $9 billion.