Viewpoints: Gas price hike from cap and trade will hurt families and small businesses

Californians are in for a big surprise this January, as a new bump at the gas pump will add a projected 13 to 20 cents per gallon to the already high price we pay for gas. Worse, voters in California have absolutely no say in the matter.

Prepare for sticker shock in January as emissions from cars and trucks will come under the California Air Resources Board’s little-understood cap-and-trade program. Tailpipe emissions will be subject to the program, which will result in increased costs to gas wholesalers, who will then pass those costs on to drivers. Connecting gasoline and diesel to this fluctuating market will cause prices to swing widely, causing great uncertainty for businesses and consumers.

As the owner of a business dependent on trucks and vans to deliver orders to my customers, I will have some tough choices to make if this bad policy isn’t stopped. Do I raise my prices and risk losing customers? Or do I keep my prices the same and hope that I can still make payroll each month?

None of my options are good, and they certainly aren’t ones I thought I would be making when my family started this business.

Just as our economy is recovering from the recession, extending cap and trade to fuel will strike a blow to those who can least afford it because for many, even a slight increase in gas prices takes a gouge out of the shrinking family budget. With families struggling just to make ends meet and many regions in California still facing double-digit unemployment, this tax is simply unaffordable and couldn’t come at a worse time.

Legislators eight years ago passed Assembly Bill 32, which created this tax increase. That crop of legislators (many of whom are no longer even in office) left the current legislative leadership with this devastating whack on consumers and business owners. In growing opposition to that harmful legislation, 16 Democrats in the Assembly have sent a letter to Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the Air Resources Board, asking her to either delay the program altogether or change it so that it doesn’t unnecessarily increase fuel costs to consumers.

Never intended to be a revenue generator, this plan will raise roughly $2 billion to $3 billion a year for the government to use on a whole host of projects. Gov. Jerry Brown plans to use a third of this money for the proposed bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The remaining money will be split among transit operations, water and clean-energy projects, and affordable housing and “sustainable communities” along transportation corridors. So contrary to the original purpose of gas taxes, this added revenue won’t make any improvement in our roads, but will fund a whole host of other things not even related to driving.

I urge you to join me in sending a letter to Gov. Brown asking for a delay, or better yet, repeal of this gas tax that will deal a damaging blow to California consumers.