Taking It Out on the Little Guy
Gov. Jerry Brown has declared that opposition to efforts to reduce carbon emissions “borders on the immoral.” Hesitate though we might to debate Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, on the nature of divine law, we have to question the “morality” of forcing working California motorists to bear the brunt of the cost of regulations required by Brown’s convictions.
In light of both economic concerns and a more rational understanding of climate change science, other nations and states are rethinking their aggressive policies. But here in California, the reigning political leadership is forcing the middle class and working poor to shoulder almost the entire burden of mankind’s response to climate change.
When it comes to the topic of climate change, there is really only one thing we know for certain. Climate change is a global concern that needs a global response. There are nearly 200 nations on earth. To ask the working families and small businesses of one state in one nation to suffer almost the entirety of economic harm is both unfair and foolish.
How did we get to this point? In 2006, California lawmakers enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, telling the public that its cap-and-trade program – forcing emitters to buy credits – would radically reduce carbon emissions. The unelected California Air Resources Board has proceeded to place transportation fuels under the program. Because the agency has no power to levy taxes, CARB Chair Mary Nichols said they would use the power of cap-and-trade as the way to price carbon. Already, this program has added about 13 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas and this could be increasing to as much as 75 cents.
Last year, anticipating the problems this would create for working California families, Democratic Assemblyman Henry Perea 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 was killed by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg.
Now that the new CARB regulations are taking hold and producing upward pressure on gasoline prices, Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson has introduced AB 23, the Affordable Gas for California Families Act. This legislation would remove transportation fuels and natural gas from the clutches of the California Air Resource Board’s cap-and-trade program.
The idea behind AB 23 is simple. Relieve the burden on modest and low income folks already struggling under difficult economic circumstances and who have little ability to make quick changes to their lifestyles. However, when heard last week in the Assembly Resources Committee, the bill was rejected 6 to 3, on a party line vote, with Democrats, who like to portray themselves as the champions of the little guy, providing the no votes.
Unfortunately, this vote is what we’ve come to expect. Just last year the Democrats rejected a bill which would have phased the cap-and-trade “tax” in gradually. As I wrote last year, “the response of Democrats 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 $100,000, 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.