UPDATE: Governor Newsom signed the legislative version of the 2022-23 state budget:
- SB 154 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) – Budget Act of 2022.
Over the weekend, the Governor and legislative leadership came to an agreement on the budget framework. The bills that reflect the agreement are in print and the Legislature is expected to act on them in the coming days.
The full of the bill can be found here.
After months of talks about a gas rebate -- the much needed relief is finally on the horizon for Californians.
Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced they have reached a deal that would get money directly to people to offset the record-breaking gas prices and inflation. Families in California could get direct payments of up to $1,050.
That's welcome news for many Californians who have been feeling the pinch -- especially for people on the Central Coast -- who at times were stuck paying higher gas prices than the rest of the state.
For local businesses still recovering from the pandemic, the pain at the pump feels like a punch in the gut.
Rachel Hill owns SLO Veg. They deliver fresh produce to homes in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
"With all of our deliveries running 2-3 different routes every single day, the cost of fuel has hit us really hard."
With record-breaking gas prices and inflation at historic highs, Hill tries to find ways to avoid passing the cost on to customers.
"We're looking to consolidate and switch that to maybe 4 days a week and getting neighbors who live next door to each other all on the same day."
But help could come soon.
Sunday night, Newsom and state lawmakers announced they've decided how to return part of California's nearly $100 billion dollar budget surplus to taxpayers.
The proposal includes an "inflation relief package" offering tax refunds to millions of Californians.
Here's how it breaks down.
- Californians making less than 75 thousand dollars will get $350.
- Those who make between 75 thousand and 125 thousand dollars will see a $250 payment.
- People who make between 125 thousand and 250 thousand will receive $200.
- The proposal also includes additional payments for people with dependents.
HOW WE GOT HERE
The inflation relief deal comes after a months-long stalemate between Newsom and the state legislature -- who have been at odds on how to give money back to taxpayers.
The new deal means the governor's initial proposal of a $400 gas rebate card is dead in the water.
Criticss, including some lawmakers, slammed that proposal for leaving out Californians who do not own a vehicle.
The relief package is similar to what Democratic senators asked for months ago, which was $200 for most Californians.
It's something the nonprofit group 'California Budget & Policy Center' said earlier this month, was more equitable.
Under the current proposal, Californians could get even more money.
Alissa Anderson, a senior policy analyst with California Budget & Policy Center says, "It (relief checks) needs to be targeted to those who are lower moderate incomes, the ones who are stretching themselves every single day to pay for basic needs."
Meanwhile, Republicans in Sacramento repeatedly called for a gas tax holiday.
I spoke with the assembly's top republican budget official, Vince Fong last week. "The simplest and the fastest way to deliver the relief is to suspend the gas tax and allow California motorists to get that relief as quickly as possible."
But Gov. Newsom and Democratic state leaders shut down the idea -- arguing there's no guarantee the savings would be passed along to consumers.
In April, a bipartisan group of lawmakers -- including Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham -- had another suggestion.
"We introduced a bill that is a 12 month gas tax holiday applied at the pump so we can guarantee it actually gets to the drivers and isn't lost somewhere in the supply chain."
That proposal was also nixed.
Prior the announcement of the inflation relief deal -- Cunningham said he was willing to compromise.
If they just want to do broad rebate checks to everybody, that's better than nothing right. People are hurting. They need the help. They just need to reach some sort of agreement and do it quickly,"
Relief can't come quickly enough for people like Rachel Hill -- who have been paying a steep price for far too long.
"You know i actually think maybe I need to sell one of these (delivery) vehicles".
WHEN TO EXPECT RELIEF CHECKS
Californians can start seeing those relief checks by October. It will arrive either through direct deposits or debit cards.
The budget deal was announced days before the beginning of the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Also happening on July 1, the state gas tax is set to increase.
The current gas tax is now at 51 cents per gallon. It will increase by nearly three cents come Friday.
Right now, suspending the state's gas tax is off the table. But what is included in the recently announced budget agreement is is suspending the state sales tax on diesel.
Current diesel sales tax is 23 cents per gallon.
PRICES AT THE PUMP REMAIN HIGH
Monday's average gas price in San Luis Obispo county is $6.52, up one cent from Sunday.
Santa Barbara's county average is $6.28, down one cent from yesterday.
California's average gas price is $6.31, down one cent from yesterday.