Higher gas taxes here thanks to Sacramento

By Senator Mike Morrell
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Published by the Southern California News Group, including the Press-Enterprise, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, San Bernardino County Sun, Redlands Daily Facts, and Orange County Register (online).

Around this time each year, Californians would usually have seen a decrease in gas prices as stations shift from selling the more expensive summer blend gas to the cheaper winter blend. Not this year – and Sacramento Democrats are hoping you won’t notice.

On November 1, the governor’s gas tax kicked in, tacking on an extra 12 cents more per gallon. Eventually this amount will climb to 19 cents and higher. It is just one part of a slew of new taxes and fees that will take effect over the next few months. All told, the state will collect an additional $52 billion over the next decade from our wallets.

Though passed in April as part of Senate Bill 1, Democratic leaders conveniently delayed the implementation of the gas tax so they could attempt to minimize its impact. However, it won’t take too long for Californians to notice their bills going up.

Cost increases won’t just be felt at the pump; with diesel taxes increasing too (20 cents per gallon plus a new sales tax), so will the price of everyday goods and products trucked throughout our state. Family and personal budgets will be hit from all sides.

The question is for what? With $52 billion to spend, how much of this will go to our highways? Will these taxes make commutes more bearable? Will drivers see new infrastructure to expand capacity? For most Californians, logic would dictate yes. More money should equal more roads.

Yet, out of the billions of dollars brought in each year, less than five percent will be spent on projects to actually relieve traffic congestion.

Supporters of the taxes contend the money is needed primarily to maintain the roads we already have. This argument, however, should give drivers pause. For years, California has had among the highest gas taxes, yet our roads frequently rank near the bottom in quality, 42nd in 2016 according to the Reason Foundation. The state continues failing to deliver on the will of voters, who, since 2002, have three times voted on initiatives to ensure their gas and diesel taxes are used on streets and highways.

Where else are the new taxes really going? $80 million will be spent on parks. Another $100 million will be used on the Active Transportation Program, likely for bike paths and walkways. Public transportation, like light rail, also gets more than $750 million per year. Most drivers probably do not expect that the money they pay to use the state’s roads is going to such programs.

We all want efficient transportation infrastructure that meets the needs of our communities, but why aren’t we getting at least what we have already been paying for?

California has the top income tax rate and state sales tax rate in the nation. Now drivers are being asked to trust that with just a little more of their money, the state will finally deliver on its promises. The reality is that the government will never live up to those promises unless there is a major public outcry. The thirst for new taxes is unquenchable.

We saw this fact on full display in 2017 when proposed annual tax increases in the legislature totaled over $343 billion, according to the nonpartisan California Taxpayers Association Foundation.

On top of it all, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the governor’s carbon program will increase the price of gas by as much as 73 cents per gallon. Combined with the SB 1 gas tax, households will face an estimated $1,000 in extra costs.

Democrats clearly feel emboldened to continue taking more of our hard-earned money to support an ever-growing and powerful state government. It is ironic then that they as the majority party would try to hide, rather than promote, their agenda to increase gas taxes.

Or maybe they know all too well the challenges facing our state. That more people are leaving than coming here, that we have the nation’s highest poverty rate, and that California is frequently ranked one of the toughest places to do business. Yet still they tell Californians to foot another tax bill.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”

Taxes will keep coming down the line, unless the people tell government enough is enough and to make do with what it has. Repealing this gas tax would be a start.