July 1 is shaping up to be a big day for California.
That’s when the Golden State’s sky-high gas prices are set to tick up even more due to a scheduled increase to the excise tax rate, which will tack nearly 3 cents per gallon onto prices at the pump. On Wednesday, drivers were already paying an average of $6.44 for a gallon of regular gas, compared to the national average of $5.01.
July 1 also marks the dawn of California’s new fiscal year — although the state’s spending plan is far from finalized. Lawmakers on Wednesday sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk a $300 billion placeholder budget, which the governor criticized earlier this week for failing to include “more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.”
A similar message was struck Wednesday by a group of Republican lawmakers, who gathered outside the state Capitol in front of a huge “100” constructed out of bright orange traffic cones. According to the GOP legislators, Friday will mark 100 days since Newsom first floated the idea of gas tax relief in his March State of the State speech.
- Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City: “We are still waiting with no relief in sight, fighting over $400 or $200 that they’ll send to you. And that’s not enough. We need action now. We’ve been calling since January to suspend the gas tax, the quickest, easiest way to provide relief to every California consumer on gas prices right now. If we had done it … everyone would have saved over $2,400 right now.”
- GOP Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares of Valencia: “The cost of a gallon of gas in my district is equivalent to five cans of baby formula, or roughly two weeks of feedings. I know single moms are choosing to fill up only half of their tanks so they can make sure they have the money for baby formula. This is heartbreaking.”
- Newsom earlier this year proposed suspending July’s scheduled tax increase and using the state’s nearly $100 billion surplus to backfill more than $1 billion in lost revenue for transportation projects. The plan was basically dead on arrival. “We stand ready to act as soon as the governor joins us in supporting a plan that provides stronger relief for California families,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins told me in April. On Tuesday, Rendon tweeted a photo of him, Atkins and Newsom discussing “our joint efforts on the budget.” “I’m grateful as always for their partnership,” he wrote.
- A bipartisan group of lawmakers also suggested suspending the gas excise tax for one year and ensuring gas companies pass 100% of the savings on to consumers. Their colleagues voted the proposal down.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percent on Wednesday — the biggest increase since 1994. The move is intended to tamp down inflation rates that have reached 40-year highs — but could also depress economic growth and prompt unemployment rates to tick back up. That doesn’t bode well for California, which last month accounted for more than 25% of the nation’s ongoing jobless claims.