Published in: The Press-Enterprise
As the recent legislative session drew to a close, my Republican colleagues and I reached out and asked Californians to join us in opposing tax increases and proposed restrictions on gas use. Within days, my office heard from hundreds of you.
You were engaged in this issue and with your help we successfully blocked billions of dollars in new taxes on everything from gas to health care. You sent a clear signal to the Governor and majority Democrats that Californians are through with the runaway spending, regulations, and taxes coming out of the state capitol. You want a government that is effective and efficient. That message was delivered.
Since convening last December, Democrats proposed no small number of tax increases and other legislation to make life more expensive and difficult in our state. Remember, our Governor once promised that voters would have ultimate authority to approve any taxes. Yet this summer, he explicitly called for special sessions to consider ways to raise taxes. None of the proposals gained traction.
One of the highest profile measures going through this year was SB 350. In its original form, it would have forced drivers to reduce the gas they use by 50 percent by 2030, empowering unelected regulators on the California Air Resources Board to meet this objective. Their unchecked authority would have been unprecedented in scope and breadth.
Down the line, it would have meant higher fuel prices, restrictions on your ability to drive, and the potential rationing of gas. For areas like the Inland Empire it would have been devastating, affecting not just family budgets, but also businesses just getting their footing since the recession. While there were still bad provisions in SB 350 that passed, we soundly defeated the portion that would have restricted gas use.
For Republicans, taxes are a nonstarter. We recognize that it is our duty as lawmakers to protect Californians from the excesses of big government. High taxes hurt everyone, but particularly young adults, the middle class, the working poor, and seniors on fixed incomes. They do not need to pay any more than they already do. The legislature needs to better manage your money.
Consider that the state brought in $10 billion more in tax revenue last year than was expected by budget experts, leading to a record-setting $265 billion budget. This money could have been used to appropriately fund priorities like our streets and roads. Instead, the majority party neglected that core government responsibility in a dishonest attempt to leverage higher taxes, yet still found $23 million to spend on cash cards for convicted drug felons and $142 million for phone plans with unlimited texting and data plans and the list goes on…
They also floated annual “road usage fees” of $52 and just weeks ago Senate Democrats approved a 12-cent hike in the gas tax, a 22-cent hike in the diesel tax, and a $35 increase in the vehicle license fee – all while arguing they were necessary to improve our roads.
Yet, despite mounting pressure, Republicans held strong. We proposed our own proactive, tax-free measures to fund maintenance and repairs. We remained firm in our commitment to reducing the size of government, showing that it is possible to live within our means.
With one of the steepest gas tax rates in the country, Californians rightly expect that our roads and highways should be well maintained. Unfortunately, our Governor refused to consider any proposal without also raising taxes.
While we celebrate these victories, we cannot let our guard down. The Governor and his allies have already pledged to continue their push for more taxes and regulations in the year ahead. Our job now is to stay on guard and pursue opportunities for everyone in our state.
Throughout this legislative season, you, the taxpayers, proved once again that the officials elected to represent you only do so at your consent, as intended by our nation’s founding principles. You raised your voice – and they listened.
Ronald Reagan once said, “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” That is exactly what you did. Let’s continue on with that spirit.
I’ll keep you posted.