You might want to fill up that gas tank before Nov. 1 tax hike

See how much California’s gas tax will rise through 2020

Increases to California's gas tax were approved in 2017 and will continue for years.
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Increases to California's gas tax were approved in 2017 and will continue for years.

Jose Medina has Nov. 1 circled on his calendar, because “that’s the day the gas goes boom.”

More to the point, it’s the day that a 12-cent increase in the base gasoline excise tax goes into effect statewide.

Medina, 40, is a Sacramento County resident and farmworker who said he routinely drives his pickup truck up and down the Central Valley. For him, any increase in gas prices is a big deal.

“I’ll be filling it up on Halloween (Oct. 31). The kids will be doing tricks and treats, but I’ll be getting gas,” Medina said.

Senate Bill 1 was signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown, who vigorously supported the measure that will raise more than $52 billion over the next decade to help pay for extensive road-improvement programs statewide. Public transit and other transportation programs likewise will benefit.

A late-spring poll showed robust public displeasure at the tax increase, and that was evident this week at gas stations up and down Broadway in Sacramento.

“Where does it stop? More taxes and (Californians) already pay the highest prices in the country. It just hits us hard,” said Sacramentan Lewis Gray, filling up his full-size sedan at the 76 station at 15th and X streets, where pay-with-cash gas was going for $2.76 a gallon on Wednesday.

At the nearby Valero station at Broadway and Riverside Boulevard, pay-with-cash unleaded regular was posted at $2.89 a gallon, and Elk Grove resident Becky Cole thought that was pricey enough.

“So next week we’ll be back above $3 (a gallon), and I’m betting next summer we’ll be back up to $4,” she said. “People are hurting to just pay their bills, and another tax makes it harder to keep going.”

Energy analysts are divided on the statewide economic impact of the tax, noting that the price of California’s specific blend of gas is subject to refinery conditions and supplies, and at-the-pump costs have historically varied wildly.

Currently, Sacramento-area motorists and their fellow Californians have been enjoying relatively moderate gas costs.

The most recent report by national gas price tracker said the average retail price of gas in Sacramento was $2.87 a gallon, down nearly 4 cents from the previous week. On the same day one year ago – a year in which gas prices were abnormally low throughout California – the average was $2.63.

However, in late October 2013, the average local price was $3.66 a gallon. In 2012, it was $4.27.

Opponents of the gas tax have prepared a ballot initiative for the 2018 ballot that would repeal it. They filed papers in September to begin gathering signatures to qualify it for the ballot.

Supporters of the gas tax increase contend that, while painful to pocketbooks, it is a necessary measure to fix some highways, bridges and transportation infrastructure in need of extensive repairs.

Some consumers who talked with The Sacramento Bee said they understood that position.

“We all use the roads, and we all want them to be safe, so I can live with that,” said 36-year-old Carmichael resident Mandy Baker, filling up the family SUV at the Chevron station at Greenback Lane and Auburn Boulevard in Citrus Heights. “It costs money to fix things, and if we’re all going to drive on the roads we should do at least something to keep them up.”

Gov. Jerry Brown on April 19, 2017 spoke with reporters about the gas tax increase to fix roads.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

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