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Ventura County Perspective | PERSPECTIVE ON THE GAS

Taxation Accounts for Too Much of What Motorists Pay at the Pump

With its large surplus, California could easily afford to eliminate this levy.

September 10, 2000|TONY STRICKLAND | Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) is seeking reelection in the 37th District

I have been on a crusade to lower the price of gasoline in California during my term in the state Assembly. Last year, I proposed gas tax reductions, and I've done so again this year. The reasons are straightforward: High gas prices hurt California's working families, and taxes account for too large a portion of the price of gasoline.

When they fill their tanks, California motorists pay an 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal excise tax, an 18 cents-per-gallon state excise tax and an average of 15 cents per gallon in state sales taxes. That 51.4 cents per gallon of gasoline is an unfair tax burden, especially when prices were pushed to $2 a gallon earlier this year. Eliminating the sales tax of 15 cents per gallon would translate into an annual savings of $400 per working family.

Earlier this year, the governors of Indiana and Illinois suspended their state sales taxes on gasoline by their executive authority.

In real terms, Californians are paying one-third of the price of a gallon of gasoline in taxes, an outrageous amount of taxation. It is also an outrage that proceeds from the state sales tax on gasoline do not benefit California roads or transportation projects but rather are placed in the state's general fund. With a larger than $13-billion surplus this year, California could have easily afforded to eliminate the sales tax on gasoline while providing for critical infrastructure needs, better schools and future transportation needs.

To understand the effects of the state sales tax on gasoline, it is important to discuss how it affects the lives of real Californians. Take our state's shipping industry, for example. When companies pay to have their products shipped to stores and consumers in California, they often have them transported by trucks. With high fuel prices and high gas taxes, shipping companies raise their prices for shipping in California, increases that are passed along to the consumer in the form of higher prices. In addition to the direct benefit of lower prices at the pump, consumers throughout California would save a great deal of money with lower prices at the counter if the sales tax on gasoline were eliminated.


College students, who have to pay for tuition, room and board on campus, books and other expenses, are unduly impacted by high gasoline prices in California. Putting an additional $400 in their pockets would enable them to purchase textbooks for a semester or allow them to visit their parents at home on a more regular basis.

Our senior citizens have been termed "The Greatest Generation" by television anchor Tom Brokaw. They led the United States to victory over tyranny and oppression in World War II, and their innovation and creativity made America what it is today. Today, most senior citizens live on a fixed income, dependent upon their pensions and Social Security. In addition to providing for their daily lives and enjoying their golden years, seniors must also worry about being able to afford their prescription drugs and other costs of medical care. An extra $400 would allow them to afford some expensive prescriptions, take a vacation or make home improvements so they could continue to live independently.

Working families in Ventura County often live paycheck to paycheck to provide a better quality of life for their children. Shuttling children to and from school and after-school sports, and often commuting long distances to and from work, they feel the burden of high gas prices and high gas taxes. Giving $400 or more back to these working families would allow them to take a family vacation, afford better-quality child care or start saving for college tuition.


Given these real-world examples of what high gasoline prices and high gas taxes mean for Californians, it unconscionable that lawmakers took no action in this area this session. With California experiencing a $13-billion budget surplus, lawmakers had the opportunity to abolish the state sales tax on gasoline without too much difficulty. But they lacked the political will to do so.

As long as I am a member of the state Assembly, I will continue to fight for the interests of senior citizens, college students and working families by pursuing the elimination of the state sales tax on gasoline.

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