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California’s gas tax just went up. So has the bickering. – San Diego

As tensions mount between the petroleum industry in California and state policymakers, the cost of a gallon of gasoline just got a smidge more expensive this week.

Monday marked the start of the new fiscal year and California’s state excise tax on gasoline increased 1.7 cents per gallon. That’s part of the annual adjustment for inflation that is part of Senate Bill 1, which the Legislature in Sacramento passed and then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in 2017.

The excise tax rose on July 1 from 57.9 cents per gallon to 59.6 cents.

Last summer, the excise tax jumped 4 cents per gallon from the previous year because the rate of inflation was higher.

Formally called the Road Repair and Accountability Act, the SB 1 gas tax expects to raise $52.4 billion over 10 years. More than $3.2 billion per year will go the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Program that includes $400 million for bridges and culverts, $200 million local entities and $100 million for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

California has the highest state excise tax on gasoline in the country. Pennsylvania is second, charging 57.6 cents per gallon.

In addition to state taxes, motorists in every state also pay a federal excise tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.

California has the most expensive price per gallon of gasoline in the country. According to AAA, the average price in San Diego on Wednesday came to $ That’s $1.xx higher than the national average of $ a gallon. Statewide, the average price per gallon in California stood at $

However small in relative terms, the state excise tax increase is just one more expense that consumers — buffeted by inflation in so many other sectors of the economy — have to bear.

The war of words ramps up

For the past several decades, the relationship between the petroleum industry and a political class in California that has steadily moved to the left has been strained. But the fault lines appear to be deepening.

Sharp price spikes in the past two summers prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to accuse oil companies and refiners in the state of “lying and gouging Californians to line their own pockets.”

The industry has recently taken on a more visible role in pushing back, saying the difference between the prices motorists in the Golden State pay compared to drivers elsewhere in the country is primarily due to decisions made by California’s elected officials.

For example, drivers pulling up at many Chevron gas stations in the San Diego area and across California may see a sign that reads, “Filling up your tank is a lot cheaper in other states.” The sign includes a QR code that sends users to a page called the Chevron Advocacy Network.

A sign at a Chevron gas station on First Avenue in San Diego about high gasoline prices, directing motorists to a QR code that links to the company's interpretation of why gas prices in California are so high. (Rob Nikolewski/San Diego Union-Tribune)
A sign at a Chevron gas station on First Avenue in San Diego about high gasoline prices, directing motorists to a QR code that links to the company’s interpretation of why gas prices in California are so high. (Rob Nikolewski/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The page mentions the recent increase in the state excise tax, shows a graphic of the price of gas in California relative to other states and says policymakers are “just getting started. They plan to drive gas prices even higher with increased environmental fees in the coming years.”

The QR link also provides access to send a letter or make a call to local legislators to “let them know you’re fed up with California’s high gas prices.”

Chevron spokesman Ross Allen said the campaign wants “drivers to understand how expensive state policies really are.” He did not divulge how many customers have registered using the QR code since it was introduced late last summer.

“We fully support the state’s choices, as far as what types of laws it wants to put in place,” Allen said. “But what we don’t support is dissembling or going out and making us the bad guys about costs that Sacramento has imposed on the drivers. It’s just not fair to us.”

The Western States Petroleum Association, an industry trade group, has posted highway billboards and videos making similar arguments.

So have organizations such as Californians for Energy Independence and Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy that have each run TV commercials across the state. Critics of the campaigns have labeled the organizations as industry front groups.

The ads have come on the heels of the Legislature in 2023 passing and Newsom signing the awkwardly named Senate Bill X1-2.

Hailed by the governor’s office as the “nation’s first price gouging law,” SB X1-2 created the Division of Petroleum Market Oversight to monitor the state’s crude oil and gasoline companies. It also requires refineries to report maintenance schedules in advance and provide daily reports on the market and imports.

In addition, the legislation gives the California…

Read More: California’s gas tax just went up. So has the bickering. – San Diego

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