By RIA ROEBUCK JOSEPH
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — California’s Republican state legislators are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to take steps to ease the financial burden for California families as summer approaches.
In a letter dated Feb. 21, and signed by all of the party’s 18 Assembly members and eight state senators, the representatives asked for three actions to be considered to ease the burden for Californians “struggling to afford the rapidly increasing cost of basic necessities.”
The letter asked for a stop on the gas tax hike, an extension of the diesel tax holiday and a delay in the fuel blend transition. The request comes as Gov. Newsom’s gas tax proposal is scheduled for a hearing today.The group argued that Californians already pay more than 50% above the national average for gas. An 8% increase is expected to take effect in July 2023. The Republicans are asking for relief from the 2023 increase through a suspension of the gas tax increase.
On Tuesday, the price for gas was $4.738 a gallon in California and $4.723 a gallon in Santa Barbara County, according to the American Automobile Association.
The war in the Ukraine, begun in 2022, has pushed prices upward. In response, President Joe Biden made what the White House calls “a historic release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to serve as a bridge to greater supply” in 2022, but it was not clear from the start how significantly gas prices would be reduced by this course of action.
In November 2021, 50 million barrels of crude from the reserves were released in an effort to reduce the already high costs at the pump. Another 30 million barrels were disbursed in March 2022. Gas prices remained artificially low as a result with the introduction of reserves.
“Cutting costs at the pump should be a no-brainer, yet Californians are facing another gas tax increase,” said Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones, R-San Diego. “Families can’t afford a summer of record-high prices again. We’re calling on the governor to act and suspend the tax increase before gas prices skyrocket.”
The cost of diesel is due to increase on Aug. 1. A partial diesel sales tax exemption last year lowered the price of consumer goods by reducing the cost of commercial transportation.
The letter asked that this exemption be extended for a further 12-month period to control inflation and deal with the high cost of goods. A recent report by Wallethub showed that three metropolitan areas in California topped the list for increased inflation.
The metro area of Riverside-San Bernardino -Ontario, the most affected area of California, has seen drastic increases in food, energy and rent costs ranking it the third highest in the nation for inflationary increases.
“With high grocery prices, outrageous utility bills, housing prices that force families to flee, and unbearable inflation, Californians need relief wherever they can get it,” said Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, R-Yucaipa. “No one should have to make the choice between filling up their tank and putting food on the table.”
Family budgets were strained last year when gas prices soared reaching as high as $7 per gallon in some areas of California.
The third fuel-related measure requested by the Republican representatives was a delay in the transition from the winter-blend gas to the summer-blend gas.
America has about 20 different blends of gas in an attempt to control smog levels. Each blend adhering to different federal and state guidelines as needed to the varying climate of America’s different regions. The grades attempt to control the amount of volatile organic compounds that evaporate from gasoline. The less VOC emitted, the less smog is created from the combusting gas.
Winter-gas blends, which can be combined with other fuels that work well in colder weather, are less expensive than summer-gas blends when the weather is hotter and requires a more exacting blend.
California, which has some of the tightest standards for gas blends in the country and has reduced its own acquisition and manufacture of oil and gas, is particularly vulnerable to supply disruptions and price increases.
“Refiners can produce more of the winter-blend than the summer-blend, which results in lower gas prices. Californians cannot afford a repeat of the catastrophic price spikes they experienced just months ago,” the letter said.
“California drivers are struggling with high gas prices, and if the summer-blend mandate moves forward as planned, things will only get worse,” said Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, R-Yuba City. “We need greater flexibility to prevent gas prices from spiking. This simple step will provide that while reducing the burden on cash-strapped Californians.”
The request comes at a time when refineries are preparing to switch production from winter blends to summer blends.
Assemblyman Greg Wallis, R- Bermuda Dunes, said, “Delaying the switch to summer-blend fuel provides some much needed relief from the pocketbook pain we are experiencing at the pump in addition to soaring grocery store prices and utility bills.”
“California families are frustrated with high gas prices,” Assemblyman Wallis said.
News-Press Managing Editor Dave Mason contributed to this report.