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California lawmakers weighing action to tackle record-high gas prices

In his State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed tax rebates for California drivers
Posted at 7:10 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 22:51:27-05

California lawmakers are debating action to combat record-high gas and diesel prices.

"Obviously, the gas prices have soared. It's just not workable for middle- and lower-income people in California, so we've got to do something," said Democratic State Senator John Laird of California's 17th District.

"A lot of people think that driving is something that we just choose to do but from the area I work in, it's mandatory," said Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Republican from Southern California.

Both sides of the aisle agree that gas right now is too expensive.

In his State of the State address, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed tax rebates for California drivers.

Republicans want to put California's gas tax on pause for six months.

"At the very least, we need to address the gas tax and find some relief and I think the Governor has expressed some interest there," Lackey said. "We're very thankful for that but he wants to take relief from the general fund. We're actually hoping that he'll take it from these excess funds that we have."

California's gas tax is 51.1 cents per gallon, the highest in the country.

Democrats caution against pausing the tax, citing concerns over cuts to infrastructure and school funding.

"If you did it one way in the budget, it cuts roads and it cuts schools," Laird said. "If you did a flat-out tax holiday, that's what it does. If you did a stimulus, then it could be much larger than the gas tax and could help people with rent and other things that are inflationary right now and has a broader benefit."

Others are advocating for energy independence while balancing environmental concerns.

"When we're willing to buy foreign oil, it's not only more expensive but it's dirtier," Lackey said. "We need to be environmentally conscious but in the same right, we need to have a balanced approach with our economic system. Our energy policy is in trouble."

California had a record budget surplus last year and this, year, it could hit $29 billion.

Lawmakers are looking into returning some of that money to taxpayers to help cope with these gas prices.