California

Gassed up: Calif. lawmakers rollout $400 rebate for taxpayers

Facing a constitutional spending limit and soaring gas prices affecting Californians of every income level, a group of 11 lawmakers – ten Democrats and an independent – are taking their shot at a proposal once anathema to the Democratic legislative majority: direct relief via tax rebate.

Late Wednesday, a letter from the 11 lawmakers to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the top Democrats in the California State Senate and Assembly called for a $400 tax rebate for all Californians tied to the increasing cost of fuel.

Initially couched as a gas tax rebate, the proposal includes those who don’t drive or even own a car, turning it into a wide-ranging tax rebate.

The proposal comes as pressure mounts to help Californians struggling with prices at the pump, as well as increases in the costs of food, rent and other daily essentials. Republican lawmakers have been pushing to temporarily suspend the state’s highest-in-the-nation state gas tax — 51 cents per gallon — but that appears unlikely because of opposition from Democratic legislative leadership.

“This proposed $400 rebate would cover the current 51 cents-per-gallon gas tax for one full year, 52 trips to the pump for most vehicles,” reads a letter from lawmakers, as reported by The Los Angeles Times and other outlets.

The group, comprised of Asms. Cottie Petrie-Norris (D– Irvine), Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D–Winters), Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D–Orinda), Jesse Gabriel (D–Encino), Adam Gray (D–Merced), Jacqui Irwin (D–Thousand Oaks), Evan Low (D–Campbell), Blanca Rubio (D–Baldwin Park), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D–Fullerton), Carlos Villapudua (D–Stockton), and Chad Mayes (I–Yucca Valley).

Locally, Gray and Villapudua declined to vote on a Republican-led effort to grant a gas tax holiday to California drivers. The measure, if approved, would have saved drivers 51 cents per gallon at the pump.

The gang of 11 stated that their proposal for direct payments was more preferable, citing concerns that the gas tax holiday would not guarantee savings would be passed down to drivers.

“Notably, we believe a rebate is a better approach than suspending the gas tax — which would severely impact funding for important transportation projects and offers no guarantee that oil companies would pass on the savings to consumers,” they wrote.

The proposal would be included as part of budget negotiations to occur in the summer, ostensibly delaying any immediate relief for drivers.

Following a Thursday press conference at the Capitol steps, Assembly GOP Leader James Gallagher (R–Yuba City) and Asm. Kevin Kiley (R–Rocklin) backed the gas tax rebate but called on Democrats to expedite review.

They also said they wouldn’t be giving up on a gas tax holiday effort, with California’s $31 billion surplus back-filling transportation project funding, to provide additional relief.

They plan on attempting another vote on the tax holiday proposal next week, the pair said.

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.