California Democrats are debating a proposal to give taxpayers a $400 rebate to help cover the high cost of gasoline. Gov. Gavin Newsom hinted at the idea in his “State of the State” address, presenting it as a way “to put money back in the pockets of Californians, to address rising gas prices.” But he did not address why those gas prices are rising, and why Californians pay the highest average gas price in the nation, despite the fact that the Golden State is still rich in oil and gas resources.

The New York Times reported recently:

California’s high fuel prices are partly because of taxes as well as regulatory programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Together, they added about $1.27 to the cost of a gallon of gas last month, according to a calculation by the Western States Petroleum Association.

About 40 percent of that cost comes from the state’s gasoline tax. California taxes fuel at 51.1 cents per gallon, the second-highest amount in the nation after Pennsylvania, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.

A planned increase to that tax is set to take effect in July to keep up with inflation. Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed halting the spike, but Democratic leaders have been reluctant to agree.

The effect of California’s “green” gas tax on global emissions is negligible. Meanwhile, California’s already-high gas taxes are rising because of a law Democrats passed in 2017, ostensibly to fund transportation repairs they neglected in the regular budget. The law also raised licensing fees as well. The burden of these taxes and fees falls heaviest on working-class Californians, who have to commute to their jobs or who have to drive on the job, and cannot afford expensive electric cars.

The law was so unpopular that Republicans recalled then-freshman State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) for voting for it. Republicans then put a referendum on the 2018 ballot to repeal the gas tax hike. But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — now the Secretary of Health and Human Services — put a misleading title on the referendum, calling it a measure that “Eliminates Certain Road Repair and Transportation Funding” rather than the “Gas Tax Repeal Initiative.” It failed.

The current gas tax already costs a typical California family of four about $800 per year. The gas tax hike raised that amount, and added extra annual expenses for higher vehicle license fees. So the $400 rebate would not even cover half the cost of the gas tax — and that is without taking the higher price at the pump into account. Meanwhile, the state is doing whatever it can to make it more difficult to drive ordinary gas-powered cars, whose sales Newsom wants to eliminate in the state by 2035.

The rebate is a typical California Democratic proposal to bribe taxpayers with their own money, without addressing the basic underlying problem. Gov. Newsom enacted a similar scheme last year, when he sent hundreds of dollars in “Golden State Stimulus” checks to two-thirds of the state’s households. The fact that he was facing a difficult recall election may have made that idea particularly attractive to Newsom. But he proposed nothing to address the high and rising cost of living in the state.

Newsom and the Democrats specialize in these kinds of gimmicks, while ignoring actual solutions. Instead of freeing the local oil and gas industry, Newsom is promising to end it by 2045. In his entire “State of the State” address, he did not even mention California’s ongoing drought, nor did he propose water infrastructure that might alleviate future droughts.

The $400 rebate, as Barack Obama might have said, is a way to get through a touch election. But it does nothing to help Californians.

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