As lawmakers returned to Sacramento on Monday to swear in new members for the 2023 legislative session, some wasted little time in posing the question: Why are gas prices so high?
High gas prices are a longtime staple in California. Taxes, fees and stringent regulations to combat climate change purposely make it difficult for cheap gas to exist here.
Despite a statewide drop in consumer prices during November, state legislators on both sides of the aisle proposed their bills and vowed to suspend others in an effort aimed at what they believe will relieve pressure at the pump.
Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, took the opportunity on Monday while swearing into office for another term to push Assembly Bill 53 and Assembly Bill X1-2, his first two bills of the year. In lay terms, these measures would suspend Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newly proposed gas tax for a year. In a written statement, Fong said the programs and projects funded by the gas tax will be supplanted by other state monies.
“Persistent inflation continues to cause painful financial burdens on California families,” Fong said. “We must do what we can to help ease these difficulties immediately.”
Fong’s bill rides off the heels of Newsom, who alongside bill co-sponsor Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, convened a special session Monday to introduce a gas tax on oil companies. At the meeting he stated that earnings by these companies were “too high” and deserving of a “price-gouging penalty.”
“(The) penalty is simple — either Big Oil reins in the profits and prices, or they’ll pay a penalty,” Newsom said. “Big Oil has been lying and gouging Californians to line their own pockets long enough. I look forward to the work ahead with our partners in the Legislature to get this done.”
Newsom’s measure did not specify how much companies could make, nor did he say how much the penalty would be. According to the Associated Press, his office will release those details at a later date, after further negotiations.
His proposal did, however, include a clause for more transparency by oil companies and granting additional state oversight, according to a statement by the Governor’s office.
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