We noted in March that California’s Board of Equalization jacked up the excise tax on gasoline by nearly 9 percent, 3.5 cents, to 39.5 cents a gallon. That tax hike takes effect today, July 1, and has nothing to do with market forces.
The Board of Equalization, a tax agency, approved the excise tax hike supposedly to conform with some complicated “revenue neutrality” measure. But as one of the board members who voted against the hike noted, the sole purpose was to allow the legislators to move more than a billion dollars in gas tax revenues into the state’s general fund. So it’s another shakedown of taxpayers, and not just California taxpayers.
Any motorist who fills up in California gets gouged, be they from Oregon, Arizona, Kansas, Canada, or Mexico. Nobody gets any favors based on ability to pay. A multi-billionaire such as Bill Gates pays the same as a fast-food worker from Oakland. Such workers depend on their cars more than in other states. So getting to work will now be more expensive. Note also the timing.
July is a popular vacation month so more motorists will be taking to the highways, making this a tax of opportunism. At the same time, 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 government constantly seeking new ways to shake down the people.
The United States is now producing more than 7 million barrels of oil a day, the highest since 1992. California produces more than 500,000 barrels a day, fourth-highest among U.S. states. Shale deposits could increase that production considerably, but regardless of supply and demand government wants everybody to pay more, not less, for gasoline.