Once again Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg has thumbed his nose at the working class and other Californians of modest means by blocking legislation that would have slightly delayed implementation of carbon emission fees charged to oil companies. The fees are part of the state’s “cap-and-trade” program California’s one-of-a-kind effort to reduce wordwide carbon emissions. These fees are really taxes that will be passed on to consumers.
California drivers need to brace themselves. We already have the highest gas tax in the nation and this silly scheme will add between 15 and 40 cents a gallon after the first of the year. Bigger increases are a near certainty after that.
The effort to postpone the harm to citizen taxpayers was no right wing conspiracy. Indeed its champion was Democratic Assemblyman Henry Perea. He introduced AB 69 to spread the implementation of the new fees over a three-year period to allow those who must buy gasoline more time to adjust to the higher costs. The measure was supported by other moderate Democrats and Republicans but in a letter to Perea Steinberg made it clear that he would not allow its consideration by the Senate.
In his letter to Perea Steinberg paid lip service to the cost of combating carbon emissions but added “the cost of doing nothing is much greater.” That opinion however is not shared by the rest of the civilized world. Virtually all other nations have backed off their aggressive “global warming” policies. Australia is but the most recent country to abandon carbon taxes because of the “costs to households.”
Steinberg’s refusal to recognize the needs and problems of average state residents is typical of majority thinking around Sacramento. Steinberg and his colleagues would do well to emulate gubernatorial candidate Neil Kashkari who spent a week in Fresno living on the streets while looking for work. If the Senator and other disconnected legislators would spend a little time in the real world they might learn something.
While the unemployment rate has declined — California still ranks seventh highest in unemployment — areas like the Inland Empire are still suffering with nearly 10 percent out of work. And our state at 23.8 percent has the highest poverty rate in all 50 states.
Excepting the moderate Democrats and Republicans who understand the severity of working class problems the detached political left is mistaken to overlook the millions of low income Californians — many of whom are working but only part time — who are not happy relying on entitlement programs to get by. Most of these need a car to look for work and if they’re lucky enough to land a job a way to get there.
The cost of gasoline is already sky high and the dirty little secret is that 71.29 cents of what the consumer pays per gallon is state and federal tax. The “evil” oil companies’ profits on a gallon are about 7 cents. So we have to ask — who’s ripping off whom? Having to pay another 40 cents a gallon in additional government imposed taxes is the last thing that those of low and moderate income need right now.
Assemblyman Perea has pleaded for consideration for these folks only to be rebuffed. Steinberg’s response reminds one of Marie Antoinette’s who when told that the people were starving because they had no bread infamously said “Let them eat cake.” In the case of those fervently devoted to the rigid implementation of California’s cap and trade program it is as if when told that a low income citizen can no longer afford gasoline for their 1991 Toyota Corolla they respond with “Let them drive Teslas.” The Tesla of course is a taxpayer subsidized electric car that will set the buyer back north of $100000 which is well beyond the means of those who will be most hurt by this new gas tax.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.