California to Raise Its Nation-High Gas Tax as Prices Surge at the Pump
California to Raise Its Nation-High Gas Tax as Prices Surge at the Pump

By Jack Phillips

California lawmakers will miss a May 1 deadline to scrap the state’s yearly increase in its gas tax, said Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office this week.

Currently, California has the highest gas tax in the country, adding 51 cents to a gallon of regular gasoline. According to automotive group AAA, the average price for a gallon in the Golden State is $5.68, by far the highest in the United States.

“It is clear now that the Legislature will not act in time to provide that immediate, limited relief, but we look forward to working with lawmakers on the Governor’s proposal for direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices,” Newsom’s office said in a statement.

The office said the bill is needed and called on the legislature to “move this package through” so “we can deliver needed relief to Californians.” Earlier this year, Newsom promised that he would work to suspend any gas tax increase, and he had introduced a bill to scrap the hike.

Lawmakers would have to pass legislation by Sunday, May 1, in order to suspend the measure. Reports say that Democrats haven’t introduced Newsom’s bill yet.

State Republicans accused Democrats of waiting too long on suspending the tax hike.

“Actions speak louder than words, and they did nothing,” California Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk said in a statement to local news outlets. “Republicans have been calling for a one-year suspension of the 51.1-cent tax per gallon tax for over a year—a simple solution that would have provided immediate financial relief for California’s drivers. Sadly, it is business as usual in Sacramento, and consumers are again at the short end of the stick.”

Newsom, meanwhile, also proposed a $400 gas tax rebate for each motorist instead of lifting the gas tax in its entirety, as other states have done in recent months. Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, and New York have either suspended or will suspend their respective gas taxes.

California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, both Democrats, rejected calls in February to suspend the gas tax increase because it would provide $500 million toward improving infrastructure in the state, including roads.

AAA’s data also shows that the average price for a gallon of regular gas across the United States stands at around $4.13 as of Wednesday. Other than California, Hawaii and Nevada are the only two states where the average price exceeds $5 per gallon. Washington state, Utah, Oregon, Alaska, and Arizona are also experiencing high prices, averaging at least $4.50 or more per gallon, the data show.

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