Sunday, March 27, in California saw the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline at $5.91, nearly 40% higher than the national average. In Riverside County, it was $5.96 per gallon, but in other areas of California, such as Los Angeles County, the price per gallon exceeded $6 and approached $6.65 in Mono County.
The average price for regular gas is now 23% greater than a month ago and $2.03, or 50%, more than a year ago.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his plan to address the issue. The focus will be $400 tax rebates to Californians with up to two registered vehicles. His advisers estimate this will cost about $9 billion.
Besides directing relief to vehicle owners, at his news conference, Newsom described several other components of his plan. He also announced his intentions to assist public transit users. Public transit agencies — bus, subway and rail — will benefit from $750 million. This should enable them “to provide upwards of three months of free public transit,” Newsom said.
Another $600 million will be used to pause the sales tax increase on diesel fuel, while about $525 million will used to offset the projected increase in gas taxes this summer.
Another $500 million will be focused on transportation projects that encourage more biking and walking.
The money to individuals will be distributed through debit cards to registered vehicle owners. And $800 or two cards is the limit.
In the accompanying press release, the eligibility for the tax refund was explained further, “… will be based on vehicle registration, not tax records, in order to include seniors who receive Social Security Disability income and low-income non-tax filers.”
Newsom’s plan has been criticized for giving the aid to all vehicle owners, regardless of income. Arguments already have been raised that driving an electric car doesn’t merit relief for paying the gas tax.
Newsom’s office said, the average California driver spends about $300 annually on gas excise taxes when buying fuel at the station.
Other states, such as Connecticut, Georgia and Maryland, are pausing their gas taxes as an ameliorative for the rapidly rising gas prices.
Also, several U.S senators want to suspend the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gas tax.
A tax rebate can be applied to many uses. Since it will not directly affect the price of gas, the incentive to reduce gas consumption is unchanged.
The state Legislature must adopt Newsom’s plan before any funding is directed to residents. However, this raises the question of whether the legislative Democratic leadership will support the governor’s plan or move forward with the plan it announced the week before Newsom revealed his pan.
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced their plan to send $200 to every Californian and up to $800 per family earning less than $250,000 annually. This plan could cost $6.8 billion.
“Speaker Rendon and I made a commitment to the people of California that we would find a solution to help people get through the financial hardships imposed by the rising cost of fuel and consumer goods,” Atkins said. “We’re holding true to that promise, and have developed a proposal that would help a vast majority of Californians.”
Californian Republicans argue that suspending the gas tax is a faster method to get money to people rather than waiting for special legislation and then the fiscal agencies to issue checks or cards through the mail.
“People are rightfully upset with the elitists in Sacramento who are taking their sweet time addressing rising costs,” Republican minority floor leader James Gallagher (Sacramento Valley) wrote on Twitter Saturday. “California’s gas prices are by far the highest in the nation, hitting a record breaking $5.90/gallon average this week.”
Earlier in the week, he wrote on Twitter, “If any other lawmakers think waiting 4 more months to give drivers relief at the pump is too long, [Assembly Republicans] welcome your support for our proposal to immediately lower prices.”