Gas tax increases were a major issue in last year’s Legislative session, and citizen energy consumers played a big role in letting Sacramento know gas taxes are already high enough. Now, recent remarks by Governor Jerry Brown in his State of the State address indicate a gas tax increase may again be at the top of the Legislature’s agenda this year.
Analysts say the Governor may try to persuade Republican legislators who are nearing the end of their terms to vote for new taxes and that he could use a $24 million campaign account to wage an aggressive public relations campaign for taxes.
With California gas now even more expensive than Hawaii, the Governor and members of the Legislature should instead look at the numerous counter-proposals that would devote more money to transportation without tax increases. It is also worthwhile to ask why billions in higher than anticipated revenues have not been used to address our transportation needs?
While some Californians enjoy tremendous wealth, working families don’t need a study to tell them too many residents of our state are barely getting by. The United Ways of California recently estimated that due in part to high costs for necessities, one in three California families cannot meet their basic needs.
And higher gas prices would only make things worse for struggling families. A report by the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) stated in comparison to other taxes, gas taxes are 16 times harder on the poor than the rich and eight times harder on the middle class.
That’s why it is important for citizens to take action in opposition. Letters to the editor are a great way to reach thousands of people in your community. Keep your letter brief and emphasize that a tax increase is not necessary with billions in surplus revenue and an alternative plan by Senate Republicans that does NOT raise taxes but instead spends existing gas tax revenue on roads as it is intended.
Putting a “No on the Gas Tax” bumper sticker on your car is another easy way to educate other motorists about the proposed gas tax and even reach people who do not normally educate themselves on political matters.
Finally, you can call your state representative and tell them gas is already too expensive. Legislative aides often tally the number of calls they receive in support and in opposition to proposals, so the more calls they get from citizens expressing concern, the more likely your representative is to listen.
Everybody should be able to agree that good roads are important, but perhaps that is also why the political establishment feels this issue is a good way to sell higher taxes to a public that already feels overburdened with taxes.
Most people don’t mind paying for the services that are important to keep our society running smoothly, but with Californians already paying some of the highest gas taxes in America, it’s hard for politicians to blame the poor condition of our roads on a lack of taxes.
Eric Eisenhammer is the founder of the Coalition of Energy Users, a nonprofit grassroots organization for access to affordable energy and quality jobs.