The California Senate is gearing up to vote on SB 1, legislation championed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) that, if enacted, would impose a 12 cent per gallon gas tax increase, alongside further tax hikes, in order to raise a projected $52.4 billion over 10 years. If passed by the legislature and signed into law, California will become the highest gas tax state in the country, charging 30 cents per gallon overall.
Brown has attempted to justify this measure by claiming that the use of state roads is a privilege that all California taxpayers must be on the hook for. “This is a fee, a fee for the privilege of driving on our roads that the people pay for,” Brown stated. “And we’ve got to keep paying for them, otherwise, they’re not going to work for us. It’s just that simple.” Republican state legislators have continually pushed back against the bill, maintaining that the tax increase will further burden low and middle income Californians.
However, as Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist explained in a letter sent to California legislators today, Gov. Brown and others pushing for this tax increase are really admitting that transportation projects are their lowest priority:
“Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents often claim they need to raise taxes again because transportation is a “top priority” for them,” writes Norquist. “However, Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents, by claiming a tax hike is needed, are actually admitting that transportation needs are their last priority. Were that not the case, they would not have funded everything else in the budget first.”
As it stands, California legislators need a 2/3rds supermajority vote in order to impose higher taxes on their residents. Given the results of last year’s elections, however, Democrats in the state have surpassed that supermajority threshold and can now raise taxes on their own, without any Republican votes. The vote on Gov. Brown’s gas tax hike will be the first test on how easily California Democrats will leverage their supermajority status to raise taxes on a party line vote.
Below is a copy of the letter ATR sent to California legislators today, urging them to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed gas tax hike:
“Dear Members of the California Senate,
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across California, I urge you to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to impose yet another tax increase, this time on gas, in what is one of the most heavily-taxed states in the country.
California residents already contend with the nation’s sixth highest average state and local tax burden. On top of that, your constituents have been hit with more than 20 federal tax increases over the last eight years. The last thing individuals, families, and employers across California need is to have lawmakers in Sacramento pile on with further tax hikes at the state level, especially considering they live in what is already one of the most heavily-taxed jurisdictions in the world.
There is ample evidence that higher taxes make states less competitive, and harm economic growth. John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, analyzed 681 peer-reviewed academic journal articles dating back to 1990. Most of the studies found that lower levels of taxation and spending correlate with stronger economic performance. When Tax Foundation chief economist William McBride reviewed academic literature going back three decades, he found “the results consistently point to significant negative effects of taxes on economic growth, even after controlling for various other factors such as government spending, business cycle conditions and monetary policy.”
Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents often claim they need to raise taxes again because transportation is a “top priority” for them. However, Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents, by claiming a tax hike is needed, are actually admitting that transpiration needs are their last priority. Were that not the case, they would not have funded everything else in the budget first.
ATR will be educating your constituents and all California taxpayers as to how lawmakers in Sacramento vote on this and other important fiscal and economic matters throughout the legislative session. Please look to ATR to as a resource on tax, budget, and other policy matters pending before you. If you have any questions, please contact Patrick Gleason, ATR’s director of state affairs, at (202) 785-0266 or [email protected].
Grover G. Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform”