Soapbox

Cap and trade is hiding a gas tax increase

A cyclist rides by a sign at a gas station in Los Angeles posting price increases in February. Some Republican legislators blame the state’s cap-and-trade system for part of the hike.
A cyclist rides by a sign at a gas station in Los Angeles posting price increases in February. Some Republican legislators blame the state’s cap-and-trade system for part of the hike. Associated Press

Why is gas so much more expensive in California than the rest of the United States?

It’s not because of a new law passed by the Legislature. Rather, it is the result of new regulations imposed by the California Air Resources Board, a group of unelected bureaucrats who are unfazed by public opposition and cannot be voted out of office.

The Legislature bestowed this unchecked power to the CARB, and people are starting to realize how dangerous this abdication of duty is to our state’s economy.

When Democrats approved cap and trade in 2006, they also gave the CARB the unfettered authority to expand this controversial program to include fuels. With that power, CARB devised a scheme to create a new gas tax by selling “carbon credits” to oil and gas producers.

Since this hidden gas tax went into effect on Jan. 1, it has generated more than $1 billion for a greenhouse gas reduction slush fund for bureaucrats’ untested, unproven projects and resulted in a 13-cent-a-gallon increase in gas prices. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates this program will likely add 13 to 20 cents per gallon by 2020, though the price hike could top 50 cents. Others say it could be as much as 76 cents.

To repeal these harmful regulations and restore power to the people’s elected representatives, we introduced two important pieces of legislation. The Affordable Gas for Families Act would have repealed the cap-and-trade gas tax, and Assembly Bill 239 would have required that the CARB regulations be approved by the Legislature first.

Regrettably, both our bills were blocked in committee by Assembly Democrats who seem unconcerned by the impacts of the CARB’s new regulations on our constituents.

The hidden gas tax is hurting California families, small businesses and school districts. The National Federation of Independent Businesses estimates that the state’s small businesses will lose $2.6 billion in economic output. Farmers, who are struggling to cope with severe drought, will see the costs of harvesting and shipping their products skyrocket, and consumers will pay higher prices as a result. If left unchecked, the CARB’s reckless policies will result in the loss of countless manufacturing jobs as well.

The governing process we learned and teach our children has been flipped upside down. Instead of elected officials making laws, unelected bureaucrats now do so. We urgeDemocrats to join us and take back the vital lawmaking power of our democracy. This dangerous trend must be reversed to restore accountability to government.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, represents the 23rd Assembly District. Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Nicolaus, represents the 3rd Assembly District.

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