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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Motorists Get Surprise at This Gas Station

March 18, 2000

THOUSAND OAKS — Tapping into motorists' outrage at soaring gas prices, Assemblyman Tony Strickland handed 315 dollar bills to drivers filling their tanks Friday morning to show how much of their fuel tab goes to Sacramento.

The Moorpark Republican, author of a bill to kill an 8% per gallon state sales tax on gasoline, strolled from car to car, peeling rebates from a fat wad of bills and stuffing them into the hands of surprised customers during rush hour at Johnson's Chevron station.

In most cases, the drivers got $2, sometimes more.

"That's what you could save every time you fill up," said Strickland, standing at pumps where premium gas costs $1.84 a gallon. His aides bustled about, handing fliers to drivers and urging them to call the governor and demand that the gas tax be repealed.

"I think it's important that people see what they can save," said the 30-year-old freshman lawmaker, who drew the $315 from his own bank account.

The Strickland rebates comes a day after Assembly Democrats killed a Republican effort to repeal the 8% state gas tax (about 15 cents a gallon) and to urge Congress to suspend a 4 cents a gallon federal tax.

The Democrats, a majority in the Legislature, favor a measure that would suspend the state gas tax during the peak driving season this summer. They say a permanent ban would be irresponsible because, among other things, it would hurt funding for roadwork.

Somis teacher Roz McGrath, the Democrat opposing Strickland in the 37th District race in November, said her opponent's gas station antics were a grab for free publicity in an election year.

"I think any time you hand out money, it is a publicity stunt and an attempt to buy votes," she said.

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