By Tim Hunt
Gas tax increase is one of many tax hikesUploaded: Nov 7, 2017
In case you didn’t notice, the Legislature’s increase on the gas tax hit your wallet on Nov. 1.
The effective date just happened to coincide with the shift to the winter mix of gasoline in California, a blend that is typically about a dime cheaper to produce than the summer blend. Presumably, the pols in Sacramento hoped you would not notice.
For truckers and those who drive diesel cars, it was a 20-cent per gallon hit—one that all consumers will feel in higher prices for goods that are delivered by the 18-wheelers. The bill, which included modest increases in the registration fee, is expected to produce $5 billion per year for highway and road repairs and maintenance. Sadly, that’s barely a down payment on the huge backlog because the pols have diverted highway funds to the general fund.
Some conservatives are mounting a signature-gathering campaign to overturn the tax increase that won a two-thirds voter in the Democrat-dominated Legislature. People in the Bay Area, who have been struggling with congested and battered roads, likely welcomed the tax and are unlikely to be too upset. Although, the East Bay Times reported a 2015 poll by UC Berkeley found that 63 percent of voters opposed a gas tax increase, while 74 percent opposed higher vehicle fees. That made no difference to the Legislature.
Bay Area voters also will have the opportunity to vote to increase bridge tolls that would climb annually tied to inflation next year. That measure socks the East Bay, which received a non-proportional small share of the benefits, but pays most of the bridge tolls compared to the South Bay.
The Legislature’s activities this year also included renewing the ill-advised cap-and-trade program that is a prime funding source for the governor’s absurd pet high-speed rail project. It also is projected to raise gasoline taxes by as much as another 72 cents by 2030.
The cap-and-trade and gasoline taxes were just a couple of the new tax burdens passed by the Legislature. CalMatters columnist Dan Walters wrote an intriguing piece on Oct. 8 about just how heavy the tax burden has grown on Californians. He did a bunch of original math that went well beyond the national organizations that study tax burdens.
By his calculations, taxing entities at the state and local levels will collect nearly $300 billion annually—an increase of $50 billion in just two years. That includes the $5 billion gasoline and vehicle registration fee increases as well as the voter-approved $2 increase in cigarette taxes and a 12-year extension on the income tax surcharge for the wealthiest residents. The state will collect about $200 billion of the total.
Walters notes that the total puts the state—not federal—tax burden at 12.7 percent of personal income. It would be entirely fair to ask what citizens are getting for that hefty charge—failing schools, roads and bridges that are falling apart and the endless jousting against climate change with its associated taxes.
Walters also pointed out that his calculations do not include fees for service like what a city would charge for reviewing your plans for a house addition.
For instance, a bill supporting affordable housing includes transaction fees on many real estate recordings.