Capitol Alert

California’s gas tax drops to fourth highest in U.S.

Lydia Holland replaces the gas nozzle after filling up at a Sacramento gas station in 2014. The Tax Foundation says in a new report that California’s gas tax, which recently dropped by 6 cents a gallon, is now the nation’s fourth highest.
Lydia Holland replaces the gas nozzle after filling up at a Sacramento gas station in 2014. The Tax Foundation says in a new report that California’s gas tax, which recently dropped by 6 cents a gallon, is now the nation’s fourth highest. AP

Both Congress and the California Legislature are noodling over whether to raise fuel taxes to pour more money into highway projects.

Just in time, the Tax Foundation has published a state-by-state compilation of fuel taxes, revealing that Californians are paying the nation’s fourth highest, 42.35 cents a gallon, into state and local coffers. The data don’t include the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gas tax.

California would have been No. 2 had the state Board of Equalization not reduced the state’s gas tax by 6 cents a gallon effective July 1.

The board periodically adjusts the gallonage tax to make it the equivalent in terms of revenue with what it would have been if sales taxes were still applied to fuel. The state’s share of the sales tax was eliminated in favor of an equivalent gallonage tax several years ago, although the sales tax that goes to local governments is still levied.

The 6-cent reduction in California reflected a decline in the retail price.

Pennsylvania has the nation’s highest gas tax as of July 1 at 61.6 cents a gallon, followed by No. 2 New York, 45.99 cents, and Hawaii, 45.10 cents.

Alaska has the lowest gas tax, 12.25 cents, followed by New Jersey, 14.50 cents, and South Carolina, 16.75 cents.

The Tax Foundation’s gas tax map is based on data from the American Petroleum Institute, which include a detailed breakdown for each state. It notes that California’s gas tax does not include the recently imposed fees on refiners for the state’s cap-and-trade program of carbon dioxide reduction. That amounts, the Air Resources Board says, to about 10 cents a gallon, which may or may not be passed on to motorists.

Raising the gas tax has been proposed in a special legislative session called by Gov. Jerry Brown to bolster maintenance of the state highway system, along with proposals for boosting truck weight fees, driver’s license fees, car registration fees and the auto property tax called the “vehicle license fee.”

All are on the table when the Legislature reconvenes in August.

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