California lawmakers try again to thwart increased fuel costs

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/4/2014

A group of California state lawmakers are renewing their fight against an impending fuel tax increase.

Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate are concerned about a program in place since 2006 through passage of AB32 – the California Global Warming Solutions Act. The program allows the California Air Resources Board to cap greenhouse gas emissions and require companies to buy permits to exceed those caps.

Currently, the cap applies to power plants and other heavy manufacturers. Starting Jan. 1, 2015, the program is set to expand to include oil companies. CARB has estimated the program could eventually result in a fuel tax increase between 15 cents and 76 cents per gallon.

State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for action this summer by Democratic leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown to prevent the looming tax increase. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, however, made it clear that he would not stand in the way of plans to put fuels that include gas and diesel under the state’s cap-and-trade program the first of the year.

Despite the setback, multiple lawmakers are picking up where they left off earlier this year.

Among the bills offered for consideration during the upcoming regular session is a measure that would exempt gas and diesel from the program.

Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said that drivers do not deserve to be penalized by “unelected bureaucrats.”

“I am all for clean air and doing what we can for climate change, but not at the expense of our economy and not with a regressive tax,” Wilk said in a news release. “At this point only Gov. Brown can stop CARB from enforcing this tax.”

Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, has offered an alternative to a complete exemption for transportation fuels. His bill would delay for 10 years the rule requiring the energy industry to purchase permits for affected fuels.

“California already has the highest gas taxes in the nation at about 70 cents per gallon,” Gaines stated. “And now we’re asking the state’s working families and small businesses to dig even deeper into their pockets. When is enough, enough?”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on record in support of delaying the mandate. The Association previously sent communication to California state lawmakers conveying their concerns about the increased costs that small-business truckers would be forced to absorb.

OOIDA is also one of nearly 40 groups to call on state lawmakers to action to ensure the expanded regulation does not happen “until the California Air Resources Board fully and transparently assesses and communicates the effects of the expansion to the public.

“This is necessary to ensure that the public fully understands the impacts on individuals and to the state’s economic well-being,” OOIDA said in the letter to lawmakers.

The bills can be considered once the session convenes Jan. 6, 2015.

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