Hidden tax will mean double-digit increase in gas costs

By Senator Mike Morrell
Monday, June 23, 2014

Also published at The San Bernardino County Sun.

Summer travel season is right around the corner, and we’re already seeing gas prices at more than four dollars a gallon. But perhaps this time next year, we may be reminiscing about “the good old days” when gas was so “cheap,” as another new regulation coming out of Sacramento is about to raise the cost at the pump even higher.

The California Air Resources Board has been working to implement regulations that create a new “hidden” gas tax, which will take effect January 1, 2015. If you’re wondering why you’re just now hearing about it, you’re not alone. Legislators passed AB 32, the legislation at the root of this hidden tax, back in 2006. While the law has affected other industries over the past few years, you may not have been impacted. However, when transportation fuels come under the cap-and-trade regulations created by AB 32 this January, we expect at least a 12-cents per gallon increase or more!

The fuels market can be volatile, so it’s difficult to predict what the exact increase will be. Some, including Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, have suggested we could see the new regulation lead to increases in the 40-cents per gallon range in the near future.

This increase will be in addition to the 70-cents per gallon we already pay in gas taxes, which means next year, we’ll be paying nearly a dollar per gallon in taxes and fees!

What’s worse, not a penny of the money from this new hidden tax will go to improving our freeways and roads. Instead this money goes back to Sacramento for politicians in the majority party and political appointees to do with as they please. Ironically, although AB 32’s intent is to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions, the governor and like-minded legislative leaders want to use the money from this new hidden tax to pay for the high-speed rail boondoggle and myriad other pet projects that won’t help our air quality at all.

Those of us who live here in the Inland Empire know that the recession is far from over. Our unemployment rate is still high and empty storefronts and foreclosed homes still permeate our neighborhoods.

Increases in the cost of gas, approximately 40-cents per gallon or more, are extremely regressive. Those who can afford it the least are always hurt the most. For families struggling to make ends meet, transportation costs already take up as much as 40 percent of the household budget. Imagine what this new increase in the cost of fuel will do?

Californians are being punished for using a car to drive to and from work, drive their kids’ carpool and run errands in their neighborhoods. This new tax would only make things worse for those of us who live in regions without viable transportation alternatives and who just want to provide for our families.

We should all be concerned about the absolute power and authority this one out-of-touch agency has over our lives and our pocketbooks.

If this tax goes into full effect, it will be another big hit to our economy, just as our friends and neighbors are finally getting back on their feet. The tax will also put more strain on our state’s shrinking middle class. It’s the last thing our region – or frankly any region in this state – needs.

Senator Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, represents the 23rd District in the State Senate which includes portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.