We recently noted that gasoline prices are up 75 cents since December and motorists in southern California are now paying as much as $6 a gallon. But Golden State motorists will soon be paying even more, “no matter what market forces do,” as one report puts it, because California’s State Board of Equalization just jacked up the excise tax by nearly 9 percent, 3.5 cents, to 39.5 cents a gallon. The increase kicks in on July 1, when more families go on vacation, if they can afford it.
Californians are enduring “the longest stretch of hard times we’ve ever seen,” according to Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll, and for the sixth straight year more Californians than not say they are worse off than a year ago. Those hardships, and California’s high income and sales taxes, do not appear to be a consideration for a tax board constantly seeking new ways to shake down the people.
Laws signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger mandate that the board “adjust” the excise tax by March 1 every year. The board expects the tax hike to generate more than $500 million from July 1 through June 30, 2014. Such is the greed for revenue that during the 1990s the board proposed that California tax editorial cartoons as though they were works of art purchased in a gallery. The “laugh tax” made the state a national joke but did nothing to stop the crusade for higher taxes.
As for market forces, the United States is now producing more than 7 million barrels of oil a day, the highest since 1992, and according to one report, in a few years the nation will “overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer.” If approved, the Keystone pipeline would bring 700,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada every day. But no matter what market forces do, and even in the most severe economic downturn in modern times, government wants you to pay more, not less, for gasoline. Meanwhile, if you make it to July, have a great vacation.