By Sen. Brian Jones
I’ll keep this simple: Why are California’s gas prices almost a dollar more than almost anywhere else in the country? Because of all the laws, regulations and taxes that the Democratic majority have added onto the price of fuel.
Recently, 19 Democrat legislators sent a letter to the California Attorney General requesting an investigation into a “mystery” charge they feel is unfairly inflating the state’s gas prices. Instead of taking responsibility for their price-increasing policies, the Democrat legislators want to blame “Big Oil.” They claim that the oil companies are adding a secret surcharge between the refinery and the pump to gouge consumers.
This is not the first time the issue has come up. When Democrat legislators created or have sought to expand the state’s pricey Cap-and-Trade Program, they loudly complain that “Big Oil” is conspiring to hike gas prices. When they say “Big Oil,” they are talking about the large multinationals, but in California, we have many small businesses in the oil industry that create high-paying jobs all over the state, particularly in the Central Valley.
In fact, last year, my Republican colleague Senator John Moorlach of Costa Mesa sponsored a bill to increase transparency on gas prices by disclosing all government-imposed costs (e.g., taxes and fees). Senate Bill 1074 would have required gas stations to post near each gas and diesel pump a list of cost factors adding to the price of fuel. The list would have disclosed how much the consumer pays in federal, state and local taxes, as well as the costs associated with environmental rules and regulations.
Some of the costs hidden in the posted per-gallon price of fuel at the pump that SB 1074 would have revealed to the consumer:
- Federal tax.
- Excise tax.
- State tax.
- Local sales tax.
- Cap-and-Trade Program compliance costs.
- Low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs.
- Renewable fuels standard program compliance costs.
- Refinery winter and summer reformatting costs.
- Underground storage tank fee.
The legislation went nowhere. In fact, the Democrat-controlled Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, where Moorlach’s bill had its one and only hearing, made amply clear that it didn’t want the public to be aware of the real costs of all the programs and taxes they have imposed.
All told, the aforementioned taxes, compliance fees, and costs add just under one dollar to the per-gallon cost at the pump. Plus, as Cap-and-Trade and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard programs kick into higher gear in the coming years, the cost to fill the tank is projected to jump another one to two dollars per gallon by 2030, according to an analysis done by Stillwater Associates’s carbon policy team in 2018.
Make no mistake, California’s high fuel prices are not due to some nefarious “price gouging” actions taken by “Big Oil,” but are the result of the laws and policies that Democrat legislators have supported and continue to support. I question why those same legislators are only saying they can’t understand why the price of gas is so high, and why they don’t want consumers to know exactly what they’re paying for at the pump.
Similar to hiding gas-pump costs, hiding from the public the details of a multitude of other government-imposed costs provides a better understanding of why California is grappling with the highest percentage of people in poverty and a homelessness crisis so acute as to defy explanation.
California has 25 percent of the homeless in the nation, and double the national average of homeless per 10,000 people.
According to the California Poverty Measure, almost 40 percent of Californians are living in or near poverty.
The Democrat legislators talk a good game, then hide from the facts. The “transparency-at-the-pump” bill would have given drivers knowledge on just how much all the various taxes and programs imposed on fuel are really costing Californians.
Democrat legislators don’t want Californians to know how much they have to pay in taxes because they know Californians would rise up in anger. Californians deserve better. I welcome your thoughts on the rise of gas taxes. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Sen. Brian W. Jones is chair of the Senate Republican Caucus and was elected to the California state Senate in 2018 representing the 38th Senate District which includes Lemon Grove, El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Poway, Escondido, San Marcos, Lakeside, Valley Center, Rancho Santa Fe, Julian, Ramona, Rancho San Diego, Bonsall, Fallbrook, Borrego Springs, and parts of the city of San Diego.