Newsom Has a Plan to Keep the Lights On in California — Using Fossil Fuels

A controversial plan from Gov. Gavin Newsom would reshape how business is done on the California power grid, potentially helping to extend the life of beachfront gas plants and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, making it easier for solar and wind farm developers to sidestep local government opposition, and limiting environmental reviews for all kinds of energy projects.

State lawmakers could vote as early as Wednesday night on the polarizing legislation, whose text was revealed late Sunday.

The bill would give the Department of Water Resources unprecedented authority to build or buy energy from any facility that can help keep the lights on during the next few summers — including polluting diesel generators and four gas-fired power plants along the Southern California coast that were originally supposed to close in 2020 but were rescued by state officials.

Those decisions would be exempt from the normal public input process under the California Environmental Quality Act — and from approval by agencies such as the California Coastal Commission and local air quality management districts.

A separate provision would allow companies building solar farms, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries — as well as electric lines to connect those facilities to the grid — to opt in to an accelerated approval process that doesn’t require sign-off from county governments. State officials would be required to conduct environmental reviews and approve or deny those projects within nine months. Legal challenges to any project approvals would need to be resolved by state courts within another nine months.

The legislation is technically a follow-up to the state budget approved by lawmakers earlier this month. It’s part of the Newsom administration’s frenetic effort to address twin challenges: the risk of blackouts and the growing dangers of the climate crisis.

It’s been almost two years since brief rolling blackouts roiled the state on two brutally hot August evenings when there wasn’t enough electricity supply to power millions of air conditioners after the sun went down and solar panels stopped generating.

Electric utilities have managed to keep the lights on since then — barely. But preventing outages is only getting harder as fossil fuel emissions heat the planet, extreme drought drains hydropower reservoirs and worsening wildfires disrupt power lines.

Newsom responded last month by asking lawmakers to approve a $5.2-billion “strategic electricity reliability reserve” that would pay for emergency power supplies over the next few years. But he surprised many observers with Sunday’s proposal to let the Department of Water Resources secure those supplies through a special review process at the California Energy Commission, which critics say could limit opportunities for public input and lead to more pollution in low-income communities of color.

The strategic reserve “is an insurance policy that will only be used when we face potential shortfall during extreme climate-change driven events (e.g. heatwaves, wildfire disruptions to transmission),” the Newsom administration says in a bill summary.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Let’s Make a Deal: What to Know About the California Budget

California lawmakers are set to adopt a $300 billion budget this week that will provide refunds to most taxpayers in the state, pour resources into expanding abortion access and extend health care to more undocumented immigrants.

The state spending plan, which has grown to a record size as the economy recovered faster than anticipated from the coronavirus pandemic, is expected to be adopted before the start of the fiscal year on Friday, after Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced a deal on Sunday night.

Negotiations dragged on for several weeks as Newsom bargained with the Democratic leaders of the state Senate and Assembly over whether to tie the tax relief to car ownership; funding increases for universities, housing and social safety net programs; the details of a major climate package; and a plan that would give state regulators more control in approving clean energy projects.

The final agreement — which includes $234.4 billion in general fund spending and which legislative budget committees began debating today — is similar in many ways to a placeholder budget that the Legislature passed earlier this month to meet a constitutional deadline. 

But at Newsom’s insistence, new spending commitments were slashed by several billion dollars and some appropriations will only be triggered in future years if revenue estimates hold up. As the state eyes another potential economic downturn, reserves will grow to nearly $38 billion, including more than $23 billion in the general rainy-day fund.

With tax revenues surging, driven by massive income gains among the wealthiest Californians, state leaders maneuvered to avoid the Gann Limit, an obscure provision that prohibits spending above a certain level per capita. Increased infrastructure and emergency expenditures, which are exempt in certain circumstances, as well as the tax refunds, will keep the state below the limit for the next few years. The Legislature is now considering placing a measure before voters on the 2024 ballot that would loosen the Gann Limit restrictions.

The tax rebate program, which has been publicly debated for months, is the centerpiece of the budget deal. Under the $9.5 billion plan, more than 95% of taxpayers — those making as much as $250,000 a year, or $500,000 if they file jointly — will receive a payment this fall. The amounts vary based on income and whether the recipients have dependents, so a low-income family with children will receive $1,050, while a single taxpayer with a higher income will receive just $200.

To reach Californians who do not file taxes, the state will also increase Supplemental Social Security grants by about $39 per month for individuals and $100 for couples, while welfare grants through CalWORKs will increase by an additional 10 percent for the next two years.

Here are other significant aspects of the budget deal:

Investing in abortion access

The state budget deal cemented Democrats’ commitment to supporting abortion access in California, investing $205 million to improve reproductive health care infrastructure and to ensure people seeking abortions can get to clinics.

The agreement earmarked $40 million in one-time funds to subsidize the cost of providing abortions to low-income or uninsured patients, including those who come from out of state. The deal also commits $20 million over three years to create the California Abortion Support Fund, which would hand out grants to women who need help paying for travel, lodging, child care and other expenses that advocates say prevent many low-income women from accessing abortion services.

More than $60 million will go towards shoring up the health care workforce by training more clinicians in abortion care and defraying higher education costs for future clinicians that commit to providing reproductive health services.

Other elements of the spending deal support a 15-bill package moving through the Legislature to expand abortion access. This includes one-time payments of $20 million for abortion clinics to improve physicial and digital security, $10 million for family planning services and $15 million for community-based organizations to improve sexual and reproductive health education. An additional $15 million in ongoing funds will go to Medi-Cal providers that perform abortions.

— Kristen Hwang

Extending the social safety net

The budget deal expands social spending, including by extending state health coverage to low-income undocumented immigrants of all ages and food assistance to immigrants ages 55 and older, who are currently excluded from the CalFresh program. The state would become the first in the nation to extend state food assistance to such immigrants.

Under the agreement, low-income Californians would also get a boost in cash aid through the CalWorks program and assistance in paying overdue utility bills incurred during the pandemic. Former foster youth would receive $1,000 a year through a new tax credit program. 

The budget would put more than $260 million toward allowing single parents who get cash aid through CalWorks to also receive their child support checks, moving away from a long-standing state practice of keeping child support payments to reimburse itself for the welfare grants. The two-part plan would begin with families who are already off CalWORKS; starting in 2025, parents currently receiving cash aid would be allowed access to their full child support at the same time.

Lawmakers and the governor compromised on how far to go in reducing an obscure $300 late fee that courts often tack onto traffic tickets and other infractions. Civil rights advocates argue the practice can cause a simple fine to balloon as much as tenfold for poor defendants who cannot afford to pay the original ticket. Newsom’s administration remained opposed to a full elimination of the fine, which would have cost the state $100 million. Instead, under the deal the state would spend $10 million to forgive current debts and the fine would be reduced to a maximum of $100, which could prompt civil rights groups to renew a lawsuit they filed against the state court system challenging the practice.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

State Budget Deal: Most Californians Will Get Stimulus Payments

Most Californians would receive stimulus payments ranging from $200 to $350 per person under a budget deal that Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders announced Sunday night.

Tax refunds under the agreement’s $17 billion “inflation relief package” would provide $350 to individuals making less than $75,000 per year. Couples making less than $150,000 who file their taxes together would receive $700. If families in those categories have at least one dependent, the deal calls for them to also receive another $350. That means families could receive up to $1,050.

The agreement also would provide checks, although in smaller amounts, to many people who make more money. The smallest payments are designated for individuals making up to $250,000, who would get $200. Couples filing jointly who make less than $500,000 will receive $400, plus an additional $200 for dependents.

Under the plan, the state would send people the money through direct deposits and debit cards beginning in October. The state’s Franchise Tax Board estimates all the money would be sent out by early next year, said H.D. Palmer, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Finance.

The state budget deal must be passed by the Legislature and signed by Newsom to become law, but a statement from legislative leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, saying they’ve signed on to the deal indicates that will happen.

In addition to the tax refunds, the budget agreement would also suspend the 23-cent state sales tax on diesel for a year starting Oct. 1, Palmer said. Under the agreement, the state would provide local governments the revenue that would have come from the diesel tax, to avoid stalling local transportation projects.

The agreement also includes money to help Californians pay their rent and utility bills, the governor and legislative leaders said. It also adds $47 billion in infrastructure spending and $200 million for reproductive health care in the wake of the Supreme Court decision this past week overturning Roe v. Wade.

“In the face of growing economic uncertainty, this budget invests in California’s values while further filling the state’s budget reserves,” Newsom, Atkins and Rendon said in a written statement.

The announcement of the deal indicates Newsom’s proposal to send $400 payments to vehicle owners is dead. Newsom had initially made the proposal to provide targeted relief from high gas prices that his administration said could be sent out to Californians more quickly than payments to tax filers. But he failed to get lawmakers to sign onto the idea.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

California Tax Relief: What’s In the Deal

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders have agreed to provide as much as $1,050 to millions of California families to help with rising gas prices and inflation, they confirmed Sunday night.

The three-tier program would benefit an estimated 23 million California taxpayers, including individual filers making as much as $250,000 and joint filers making as much as $500,000, with low- and middle-income households set to receive incrementally more money.

The $9.5 billion in tax refunds, which CalMatters reported Friday, is part of a $12 billion relief plan that is central to a broader $300 billion budget deal that state leaders announced Sunday night.

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs, and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries,” NewsomSenate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement.

Under the tax rebate plan, households making as much as $75,000 for individuals or $150,000 for joint filers would receive $350 per taxpayer, plus an additional $350 if they have at least one dependent. So a single parent would receive $700 and two-parent families would receive $1,050.

The amount would decrease to $250 per taxpayer for households making as much as $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for joint filers, and to $200 per taxpayer for households making as much as $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for joint filers. In both of these tiers, parents would receive an additional $250 or $200, respectively, if they have at least one dependent.

Californians with incomes above $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for joint filers would not receive a rebate. The relief package also includes $1.1 billion in aid for recipients of Supplemental Social Security or CalWORKs.

“The plan recognizes that some people are hurting more than others and gives them greater relief,” according to an email sent earlier this week to Assembly Democrats.

Differences in proposed spending for universities, housing and social safety net programs, as well as the details of a major climate package, lingered as the Legislature passed a placeholder budget earlier this month. But the biggest holdup to a bargain, which must pass before lawmakers leave for summer recess at the end of the month, had been the dispute over direct financial assistance for taxpayers.

Newsom and legislative leaders were at odds for months over whether to target the relief at drivers or the neediest Californians.

During his State of the State speech in March, the governor called for a plan to address spiraling gas prices, which have since reached an average of more than $6 per gallon. He proposed to send $400 debit cards to every registered vehicle owner in the state, up to two per person.

Legislative leaders firmly resisted that approach, which did not include an income limit. Progressive critics noted that it would benefit millionaires and billionaires while leaving out Californians too poor to own their own cars.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Does the Legislature know What It’s Doing With The Abortion Amendment?

At the urging of Governor Gavin Newsom, the California legislature is rushing a constitutional amendment to the November ballot that would create a fundamental right to choose an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Once it is on the November ballot, it needs only a simple majority to pass, and then there will be a fundamental constitutional right to choose a late-term abortion in California.

Senator Melissa Melendez sought to clarify the issue during the Senate floor debate on June 20. “Does this constitutional amendment place any restrictions on when a woman can get an abortion?” she asked Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, who along with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is the principal author of SCA 10.

“It is consistent with current California law, so what exists today is as it would be. It is between the doctor and the client, the patient,” Atkins answered.

Melendez wondered “where in the bill it would be very clear, should this go to a court, that it is to coincide with current state law.”

Atkins responded, “It’s as simple, it’s simply stated: abortion, right to contraception, it doesn’t change practice in California. That is between a doctor, and the patient.”

But Atkins is contradicted by the bill analysis prepared for the Senate, which states that current law in California “provides that the state may not deny or interfere with a person’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the person.”

Here is the exact language of current law, in Health and Safety Code Section 123462(c): “The state shall not deny or interfere with a woman’s fundamental right to choose to bear a child or to choose to obtain an abortion, except as specifically permitted by this article.”

And here’s the “except” language, in Section 123466: “The state may not deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”

SCA 10 says this instead: “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

The California Catholic Conference issued a statement of opposition to the bill that included this sentence: “We are extremely troubled by the language in SCA 10, which is so broad and unrestrictive that it would encourage and protect even late-term abortions, which most Californians oppose.”

A constitutional amendment overrides any law that conflicts with it. If SCA 10 is adopted, the “except” language in current law could be interpreted by a court as an unconstitutional infringement of the “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.”

Even the strongest pro-choice advocates should think this through very carefully.

What if doctors or hospitals refuse to perform the procedure late in pregnancy? Could they be sued for denying a fundamental right? Would the state take action to penalize unwilling providers? Will malpractice insurance rates be affected? Will more doctors leave California or stop practicing?

Will private insurance policies be required to cover late-term abortion? Will taxpayer-paid health insurance pay for it?

What happens if a federal court finds that someone has standing to sue on behalf of a nearly full-term fetus and a lawsuit goes forward to block an abortion or challenge California’s new constitutional provision? Could such a case lead to a landmark Supreme Court ruling declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to be born?

And then what?

Then we’re right back where we started, in a national war over future nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Understand that SCA 10 is completely unnecessary to protect current law in California. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade frees the states to make their own laws and regulations concerning abortion. California has already done that. Without SCA 10, the right to choose to have an abortion prior to viability or to protect the life or health of the mother will still be the law of the land in California.

Why are the governor and more than two-thirds of state lawmakers so intent on getting SCA 10 on the ballot this fall?

The answer is in the polling data. It’s all about motivating the independent “swing” voters who decide close elections to turn out and vote this fall.

A poll by the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research at UC San Diego asked registered California voters how likely it is that they will vote in the November election. Then the pollsters showed the voters a May 7 Newsweek article headlined, “National Abortion Ban Possible if Roe v. Wade Overturned: Mitch McConnell.”

The pollsters found that “the percentage of independents definitely planning to vote when asked at the beginning of the survey was 45.9%; this rose to 57.1% among those who read about a potential abortion ban.”

Click here to read read the full article at the OC Register

California Governor, Lawmakers Near Deal on Gas Tax Rebate

Most California taxpayers would get hundreds of dollars in cash to help offset the high price of fuel and other goods under a tentative budget compromise being discussed by legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The plan would return a portion of California’s record-setting $97 billion budget surplus to taxpayers — but the money would only go to people who made below a certain income level.

Newsom and legislative leaders were still negotiating the state budget on Friday, with talks scheduled to extend into the weekend. While both sides had agreed to a framework for rebates, the overall numbers could change as other parts of the budget are finalized. But in general, the less money people make in a year, the more money they would get from the state.

The current proposal would return about $9.5 billion to taxpayers. Single people who make less than $75,000 per year and couples who make less than $150,000 per year would get $350 per taxpayer, plus an extra $350 for each dependent. That means a married couple earning $100,000 per year with one child would get $1,050.

Single people who make less than $125,000 per year and couples who make less than $250,000 per year would get $250 each plus their dependents. Single people making less than $250,000 per year and couples making less than $500,000 per year would get $200 each plus their dependents.

The proposal was confirmed by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles. Santiago announced the plan in a news release late Friday afternoon, calling it an agreement between Newsom and the Legislature. But a representative for Santiago’s office later clarified the deal has not yet been finalized.

“As prices increase on everything from gas to baby formula, this rebate will help the vast majority of California taxpayers, including undocumented Californians, with hundreds of dollars in direct cash assistance, providing critical relief during tough times,” Santiago said.

The statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in California hit an all-time high of $6.44 last week. The average price was $6.35 cents per gallon on Friday compared to the national average of $4.93.

Republicans, who don’t control enough seats in the state Legislature to pass anything, have called for Newsom and Democrats to temporarily suspend the state’s gas tax — which at 51.1 cents per gallon is the second highest in the nation. The tax is scheduled to increase to 53.9 cents per gallon next week, an automatic adjustment that is part of a state law intended to keep up with inflation.

Newsom and Democratic leaders have refused to suspend the gas tax, arguing it would not guarantee a big enough price drop to benefit drivers. They also said it would cost construction jobs as the tax pays for highway maintenance throughout the state.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Assemblyman Kiley Introduces Constitutional Amendment to End CA’s Jungle Primary

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) announced Tuesday he authored and introduced a Constitutional Amendment to allow voters vote to end California’s Top 2 Primary election system, also known as the “Jungle Primary.”  Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16 would require a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and the Senate, as well as from a majority of California voters.

“The Top 2 Primary is making a farce of our democracy with gamesmanship, fluke outcomes, and the disenfranchisement of independent voters,” said Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. “After 10 years of broken promises, it’s time to end this failed experiment once and for all.”

California’s electorate adopted its “top-two” primary system at the June 2010 statewide election by passing Proposition 14. It became operative on January 1, 2011 and amended Section 5 of Article II of the California Constitution. Globe contributor Chris Micheli recently explained.

Prop. 14 added to Section 5(a) that “the candidates who are the top two vote-getters at a voter-nominated primary election for a congressional or state elective office shall, regardless of party preference, compete in the ensuing general election.”

“Proposition 14 created a single ballot for primary elections, rather than multiple ballots based on political party, for elected statewide and legislative officials, members of the U.S. Senate, and members of the U.S. House,” Ballotpedia reports. “The measure prohibited political parties from nominating candidates in a primary, although political parties were allowed to endorse, support, or oppose candidates. Proposition 14 did not affect partisan primary elections for president or political party officers.”

Kiley continued: “Proponents of the Top 2 Primary system argued that it would lead to increased voter participation, less partisanship, and more competitive races, but none of these outcomes have materialized. ACA 16 (Kiley) would address a number of bipartisan frustrations with the current primary system that has led to multiple instances of Republicans and Democrats being unrepresented in November legislative runoffs.”

The San Diego Union Tribune editorial board wrote in 2018 about the “hated” Jungle Primary and why, even as they continued to support it:

Now, eight years later, what’s come to be known as the “jungle primary” is again facing ferocious criticism from partisans.

Democrats hate the fact that with so many Democratic candidates splitting the vote, it’s possible that two Republicans could advance to the fall runoff in some of the seven highly contested California House seats now held by the GOP. Republicans hate the fact that there’s a chance two Democrats could advance in the governor’s race, thus potentially depressing GOP turnout in November.

Their reasoning for continued support is interesting:

In an era of heavy partisanship and polarization, the view that it is unhealthy to give too much gate-keeping power to the two major parties is more appealing than ever — especially given their declining support. Gallup has reported way more independents than either Democrats or Republicans since 2011, and the gap is widening. Last year, Gallup found independents at 42 percent, Democrats at 29 percent and Republicans at 27 percent.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Will California Suspend its Gas Tax? Debate over Fuel Costs Rages on as Biden Weighs In

California legislators have been at odds over suspending the state’s gas tax for months, but a presidential call to action and growing Democratic support is adding energy to the movement to cut fees at the pump. President Joe Biden on Wednesday proposed that Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months and for states to “take similar action to provide some direct relief, whether suspending their own gas taxes or helping consumers in other ways.” California’s gas excise tax — which funds road and infrastructure repairs — currently costs drivers 51 cents per gallon and will rise to 54 cents in July. The federal gas tax is 18 cents per gallon for regular gasoline.

The Golden State is home to the country’s highest gas prices. The statewide average on Thursday was about $6.36 per gallon, while the national average was at $4.94 per gallon, according to AAA. Although legislative leaders continue to push against suspension, some Democrats are joining Republican lawmakers in advocating for a break while fuel costs are hitting consumers the hardest. SOME DEMOCRATS SUPPORT GAS TAX RELIEF For some time, a handful of legislative Democrats have suggested they would support some form of gas tax break. That number grew on Wednesday. In late April, a handful of Democrats, including Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord, and Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, joined a group known as the “California Problem Solvers Caucus” to support a 12-month gas tax suspension that would require retailers to pass cost savings along to consumers. On June 17, some Democratic Assemblymembers also pushed to suspend the 3-cent gas tax increase that will take effect on July 1, even though legislative leaders already declined to do so in advance of the May 1 deadline.

On Wednesday, Assemblyman Rudy Salas Jr., D-Bakersfield, in the midst of a congressional campaign, announced he plans to hold a Friday press conference in his district to call for a gas tax suspension. Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, also praised Biden, although he stopped short of supporting a California version of the tax holiday. Rivas has made moves to take over the Assembly Speaker role from Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and is still campaigning for the job.

Click here to read the full article in the Fresno Bee

Guaranteed Income in Sacramento: Council Poised to Give 80 families $500 a month

Eighty households in the city of Sacramento are poised to start receiving $500 a month, no strings attached, as part of an expansion of an existing local guaranteed basic income program. Since June 2021, United Way has been giving 100 low-income residents in the county $300 a month through June 2023 as part of the Direct Investment Program in Sacramento, also known as DIPS. The Sacramento City Council is expected to approve the $750,000 contract with the local nonprofit to expand the program at its Tuesday meeting, financed with federal COVID-19 relief money.

The basic income program, the first of its kind in Sacramento, is a kind of experiment aimed at exploring alternatives to traditional social safety net programs. With crushing gas prices and soaring inflation hitting the wallets of low-income families hardest, advocates of guaranteed income programs argue unconditional direct payments are a more effective way to lift families out of financial instability.

The cash payments are similar to the stimulus checks millions of Americans received from the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the city-sponsored expansion, United Way will hire Sacramento State to research and evaluate the program, and to publicize its findings on the financial and social outcomes among participants. In a statement, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said that basic income programs are “not just about giving people money.” “Similar programs have found that the financial stability provided by basic income helped people find full time employment, funded groceries or auto repair, and reduced their overall stress,” Steinberg stated. “I am excited that Sacramento and United Way are partnering to pilot a basic income program and I hope we can do more in the future.” For families who’ve been a part of the program since last summer, the $300 monthly cash payments have been transformative.

Fienishia Wash, a single mother and recipient who lives in south Sacramento, previously told The Sacramento Bee she’s been able to boost her credit score by paying off old bills. She’s also saving money each month for the first time in her life. “I see a start to a better path, a stronger foundation,” Wash previously told The Bee. Of the 100 participants already in the program, 86% said they could not pay an unexpected $400 expense out of pocket, compared to about 36% of people nationwide, according to project lead Cameron Collins. Finding financial stability by the end of the program is a goal for about 64% of participants, Collins previously told The Bee. In addition, 18% want a more stable work situation, and 8% want to obtain a degree or credential. The city expects to see multiple economic benefits stemming from the direct payments, according to a staff report — an increased rate of participants working one stable full-time job, an increased ability to meet self-defined personal finance goals, and double the percentage of participants able to pay a sudden expense.

Those results would be in line with other similar U.S. guaranteed income programs, such as the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, which gave 125 households $500 a month starting in 2019. Researchers found that in the first year of the program, recipients were employed at a higher rate, were happier, were healthier, and were more able to weather sudden expenses compared to non-recipients in the control group. The city and United Way have yet to select the 80 households that will participate in the expanded program, or determine a start date for distributing payments. The contract with United Way would be effective July 1, and organizers would start outreach immediately, according to city spokeswoman Jennifer Singer. During the first round of DIPS, United Way opened an online portal for low-income families to apply to the program, and reached out to community groups such as La Familia and the Black Child Legacy Campaign to cast a wide net.

Click here to read the full article in the SacramentoBee

CA Democrats Abandon Gas Tax Holiday; Announce New Committee to Investigate Gas Price Gouging

“Friday marked 100 days of diddling by California’s supermajority party to provide relief at the pump for the state’s drivers from the record high gas prices,” the Globe reported Monday, ahead of the announcement by Assembly Democrats that rather than suspending California’s highest-in-the-nation gas taxes, they are going to “investigate” the state’s highest-in-the-nation gas prices. They are looking for a culprit.

Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) offered his retort with this: “Easy to read investigative report into how government is adding $1.30 to each gallon of gas in CA.”

And that state excise tax is going up to 53.9 cents July 1st, because as we learned Monday from Assembly Democrats, it’s too late to suspend the July 1st gas tax increase. It had to have been done 60 days ago.

Why wasn’t the July 1st gas tax increase suspended 60 days ago? Inquiring minds want to know.

Rather than address immediate solutions, Assembly Democrats Monday announced the creation of a new select committee to investigate whether the state’s oil and gas “profiteers” are price gouging. This is pitiful given that going back to last year at this time, Democrats vowed to take action to help working and poor Californians struggling to pay for gas, but have done absolutely nothing except talk about it.

“It’s no secret Californians are enduring pain at the pump,” Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) said. “California leaders must protect consumers from harm.”  Suspending the gas tax is a good place to start, but she offered no concrete solutions – just her feelings and concerns.

The Assembly Democrats’ press conference claiming “gas price gouging” was a lot of non-commitments among elected lawmakers – lots of “we feel your pain” moments. But hey Californians, we have a new select committee to investigate the state’s high gas prices – by going after big oil.

Lawmakers said they find the high gas prices “outrageous,” and “unacceptable,” and claimed “we are doing everything in our power to provide you relief.”

Apparently Assembly Democrats are powerless, because all they have done so far is clutch at their pearls and speak in dulcet tones of their empathy and concern as they are driven in a dark SUV to and from the airport. “We are all Democrats and on the same team,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). She said Democrats are committed to a decision and fix on gas price gouging.

And that’s all she said.

With this new select committee, they can now order oil company executives to hearings and demand they open their books to show evidence of their “profiteering.”

This is what’s known as a diversion, an aberration, a deviation from the crux of the issue. (See graphic above)

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles) talked of Californians “addiction of the gas-powered engine,” and said Chevron and Shell are “ripping off consumers.”

Republicans have consistently proposed a solution for relief at the pump – suspend the gas taxes. “The price of gas has been crushing family budgets for months,” Assemblyman Republican Leader Gallagher said in response to the Democrats’ press conference. “If Capitol Democrats were really doing everything in their power to lower gas prices, they would support our call to suspend the gas tax and halt the scheduled July 1st increase. Californians don’t need another dead-end study, they need relief now.”

“Senate Republicans have been calling for gas tax relief for a year, and keeping the pressure on is paying off. Consumers are fed-up, and Democrats are scrambling to compensate with a ‘Hail Mary’ pass on gas tax relief, said Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk.”

Wilk provided some of the policies implemented in California that drive up the cost of gasoline:

  • 51.1 cents – State gas tax (add an additional 3 cents starting July 1.)
  • 25 cents – Cap and Trade (estimate)
  • 22 cents – Low Carbon Fuel Standard (estimate)
  • 2 cents – Underground Storage Fee
  • 10-15 cents – California’s switch to summer-blend costs more to produce than other types of gasoline. Source.
  • 14.4 cents – State sales tax (estimate based on 6/20 average price)

Sen. Wilk noted that some Assembly Democrats are also joining Republicans in calling for a pause in the scheduled July 1 gas tax increase. “These are the same Democrats who failed earlier this year to suspend this increase when presented the opportunity. Senate Republicans proposed this idea last year, again in January, May, and last week.”

A curious presence at the Democrats’ press conference was Robert Herrell, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California. He assured everyone that California gas taxes are much lower here in the state than other parts of the world (See what he did… very shifty). And then he said he is “unwilling to trade California’s cleaner form of gas,” (meaning no cutting July 1 gas tax increase on the summer blend), because it’s for the climate.

He did offer a very sound suggestion to cut the “mystery gas surcharge” of .30 cents which remains a tax on California gas, a holdover from the 2015 Torrence Refinery fire.

He added this zinger at the end: “The current budget proposal is much closer to the Consumer Federation of California position,” as a nod to no relief from California’s high gas taxes. As was announced last week, the California Legislature passed a sham $300 billion budget (just so they wouldn’t lose their pay), with no gas tax relief included in it. And this is even with a $95 billion budget surplus.

“Even Joe Biden now wants to suspend the gas tax. Newsom and the Legislature are officially out of excuses and need to enact my bill immediately,” Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) Tweeted. In March Kiley introduced AB 1638 to suspend the 51 cent gas tax for six months. Democrats hijacked his bill, but he’s not giving up.

“Rather than launching a new ‘investigation,’ Governor Newsom and legislative leaders need to immediately suspend our state gas tax, which is almost 3 times higher than the federal tax.”

Kiley added: “A federal gas tax holiday would save drivers over 18 cents per gallon at the pump. If California suspended its gas tax as well, drivers would save an additional 51 cents for a total of nearly 70 cents per gallon in savings. The Penn Wharton Budget Model released last week shows “evidence that recent suspensions of state gasoline taxes in three states were mostly passed onto consumers.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe