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

CA Republicans Demand Gas Tax Suspension While Dems Investigate High Gas Prices

‘It is a sad commentary on the impact of a one-party rule’

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. Rather than actually authorizing a gas tax holiday at the pump, Legislative Democrats want it to appear they care and are doing something. So they are going to “investigate” the state’s highest-in-the-nation gas prices.

As of Sunday June 19, 2022, AAA reports the Average Gas Price in California is $6.401, while the national average is $4.983. The highest gas price in California is in Mono County at $7.212.

With California’s excessive petroleum industry regulations, highest-in-the-nation gas taxes, and special “summer blend,” expect to see that average of $6.401 per gallon of gas get much higher this summer – some predict over $10.00 per gallon. These are just averages – some counties in California already have over $10.00 a gallon gas.

Friday, Senate Republicans issued a press statement acknowledging that they have been calling for gas tax relief for months, and said keeping the pressure on is paying off.

“Running for cover, Assembly Democrats are now calling for an investigation as to why gas prices are so high. Been there, done that. Governor Newsom made the same move in 2019, and nothing has changed, except for the price of gas.”

“In a political move, Democrats are 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 with the opportunity. Senate Republicans proposed this idea last year, again in January, May, and this week. Welcome aboard.”

“Democrats are feeling the heat. Californians are rightfully mad that the Democrat supermajority has done nothing but talk about alleviating the pain at the pump for 100 days. Republicans began calling for a pause in the gas tax increase almost a year ago and have not let up,” Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) said. “While I am glad to see some of my colleagues come around, it is a sad commentary on the impact of a one-party rule. This could have done at any point this year; they just chose not to.”

Notably, Senate Republicans last July 2021 called for a ‘Gas Tax Holiday’ to include a full suspension on state gas tax collection for the 2021-2022, to be backfilled by the State’s general fund… to no avail.

Democrats issued a press release Sunday announcing a press conference Monday at noon, to launch their investigation into rising gas prices in California:

“Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), along with Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) and Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), will hold a press conference announcing legislative action to investigate rising gas prices in California.”

 The Globe has a suggestion for these Democrats: Watch the news. Pay close attention to the White House Executive Orders and directives. It’s been 18-months since President Joe Biden killed the Keystone Pipeline along with 70,000 oil and gas jobs under the guise of “climate change.”

“New drilling leases on federal lands were brought to a halt by Biden’s illegal executive order, and Biden unilaterally revoked the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline to transport oil from the Canadian Tar Sands to Gulf Refineries,”  the Federalist reported.

As for California’s highest-in-the-nation gas, nearly one year ago, the Globe reported on the escalating gas prices, when the national average was $3.131 per gallon, and California’s average was $4.31 for regular grade gas – even higher than Hawaii’s gas prices. California’s medium unleaded gas was selling for $4.50 per gallon on average. Gas in Mono County was $5.13 per gallon.

And we found an expert to explain why California’s gas is so costly:

“David Blackmon, a Senior Contributor to Forbes explains that California is a state that is rich in underground oil resources, but over the past two decades, the state government of California has pursued a policy agenda designed to inhibit drilling and production within its borders as part of an overall program to try to ratchet down emissions via command-and-control regulations. In more recent years, the state government has implemented emissions regulations that far exceed current federal regulation and implemented mandates requiring a rapid phasing-out of gas-powered cars and replacing them with electric vehicles (EVs).”

Here is a breakdown of the California taxes and fees on California gas:

Federal Excise Tax: 18 cents per gallon
State Excise Tax: 51 cents per gallon (this will be increased to 53.9 July 1)
Sales Tax (estimated): 10 cents per gallon

Low Carbon Gas Programs: 22 cents per gallon
Greenhouse Gas Programs: 15 cents per gallon
Underground Tank Storage: 2 cents per gallon

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Lawmakers Pass a Budget, But No Deal Yet on Gas Relief

On Monday, Senate and Assembly Democrats passed their version of the 2022-23 state budget.

While patting themselves on the back for adopting “a budget that puts California’s wealth to work for individuals, families, and businesses throughout our state,” there was one thing missing from their announcement – the support of Gov. Newsom.

Newsom and legislative Democrats are still at odds over how to give Californians some relief in the state budget from record-high gas prices and inflation.

Keep in mind that Monday’s vote was about lawmakers meeting voter-approved requirements that they pass a budget – ANY budget bill – by June 15 to keep receiving their paychecks.

Publicly for now, everyone is making nice.  Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon released a statement on Monday saying “we look forward to working with the Governor in the coming days to ensure we have a responsible budget in place for the start of the fiscal year that delivers prosperity and strengthens the future.”

Senate Budget Committee chair Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, told Calmatters “the Legislature is more than 95% in agreement with Newsom.”  Newsom, Atkins, and Rendon literally smiled for the cameras in a photo of their budget discussions tweeted out on Tuesday.

Behind closed doors, Newsom continues to press for his $11.5 billion May Revise plan to give rebates to car owners – $400 per car, for a maximum of $800.  Legislative Democrats want to give out $8 billion in rebates, $200 per taxpayer, limited to those earning under $125,000 a year for individuals and $250,000 for couples filing jointly.

One of the disputes is over how fast Californians would get relief under the competing plans.

As the Sacramento Bee reports, Department of Finance official Erica Li told lawmakers that “while the legislature’s budget includes a very important relief proposal to address these rising costs, as it’s currently structured, it will take longer to implement the smaller $8 billion and will not reach as many Californians when compared to the governor’s $11.5 billion proposal.”

Newsom’s senior advisor for communications Anthony York told Calmatters that Newsom also “remains opposed to massive ongoing spending” in the Legislative Democrat plan, which is ironic given the administration’s proposal for a record $300 billion state budget.

So far, no one is blinking.

Lawmakers and the Governor are likely testing one another’s resolve to see who will give in first.  If history is a judge, the Legislature will ultimately cave.

In 2011, then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a budget that the Legislature’s Democrat majority sent him on a majority vote calling it “unbalanced.”  As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time, “Democratic lawmakers had knowingly flirted with the possibility of a veto by stuffing their plan with the very things that Brown promised he would never sign.”

Brown exercised gubernatorial supremacy and largely dominated every future budget.  Newsom, too, has dominated his first three state budgets.

In an election year, legislative Democrats are now testing the limits of how far they can push Newsom in other areas to get what he wants – delivering immediate relief to struggling Californians.  While he will likely not veto the budget – or even issue a veto threat – his continued resistance to the plans put forward by Atkins and Rendon is further proof that the governor ultimately carries the upper hand in budget negotiations.

While Newsom wants a gas tax relief deal soon, expect the discussions over this and other thorny budget issues to drag into the summer.  Newsom and Legislative Democrats can reach a deal on a companion budget bill with changes to the main budget bill in order to win his signature by June 30, while punting the thorny issues for further discussion.

Click here to read the full article in the Pacific Research Institute

California asks feds for $1.2 billion for high-speed rail. Here’s how it would be spent

Federal grants from a massive infrastructure bill could breathe new life into California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project — if the state’s applications are selected by the Biden administration to receive a share of the funds. The California High-Speed Rail Authority submitted a pair of applications last month for money from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden last year. And while it’s not a sure thing, authority chief financial officer Brian Annis said California stands a good chance in the competition for the grants. “Clearly our project is what I call a ‘national scale’ project; it’s a project of national significance,” Annis told members of the authority’s board of directors at their meeting Thursday in Fresno. “It’s a megaproject.” Federal contributions to California’s ambitious bullet-train program have always been an important component of the state’s anticipated revenues for development and construction. In 2008, when California voters were asked to approve a $10 billion high-speed rail bond measure, officials “assumed federal dollars would cover from one-third to one-half of the cost of building high-speed rail.” The state has spent about $9.3 billion for project development and construction since the mid-2000s, most of that coming since construction on the initial segments began in the central San Joaquin Valley in 2014. In its 2022 business plan submitted to the state Legislature last month, the agency projected the capital costs to complete its interim operating section between Merced and Bakersfield at about $19.7 billion.

But after the Obama administration provided California with about $3.5 billion in economic stimulus and rail improvement grants in 2009 and 2010, few additional federal funds have been forthcoming as Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives railed against providing any more money for the project. That’s only about 15% of the estimated price tag to get electric-powered trains rolling at up to 220 mph through the central San Joaquin Valley, Annis said. “In the past we have not met our target for federal contributions,” Annis told the board. “But with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law we think there’s an opportunity now to even that out a bit.” If California is successful in winning the grants for which it applies — as much as $8 billion or more over the next five years — “it would bring the federal funding share up to about 37%.” The May grant applications for the 2022 federal fiscal year include:

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

California Legislators Want to Help You Buy A House With Down Payment, ‘Shared Equity’

First-time buyers often rely on family gifts to afford the down payments on their homes. Now California Legislators want the government to fill the role of generous relative.

Lawmakers are proposing creating a billion-dollar fund in this year’s state budget that would provide California’s first-time buyers either all of the money they need for a down payment, or very close to it, in exchange for partial ownership stakes in those residences.

The proposal, put forward by state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, comes as skyrocketing property prices broaden the divide between those who own their homes and those who rent in California. In the past year, Golden State homeowners gained $141,000 in home equity, on average, the housing research firm CoreLogic reported last week, more than in any other state.

California’s rate of home ownership, at 56%, is second lowest in the country behind New York, according to the American Community Survey data from the census. 

Atkins said the California Dream for All program is aimed at creating opportunities for lower- and middle-income buyers in a rapidly rising market, including those who have faced racial and economic barriers to homeownership.

“The California Dream for All program will give more people the chance to break free from the cycle of renting,” Atkins said last month. “This has the ability to change people’s lives.”

The proposal is the subject of negotiations between the Legislature’s Democratic supermajority and Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, on how to spend a projected budget surplus of $97.5 billion. The legislature passed a budget on Monday that includes the proposal, though negotiations with Newsom continue on a final overall spending plan. 

A spokesman for the governor declined to comment on the proposal, citing the ongoing negotiations. It was not included in the governor’s original budget nor in his May revised budget.

A multi-billion dollar fund

The housing proposal – which would call for issuing revenue bonds of $1 billion a year for 10 years to create the fund — is the largest in a slew of proposals intended to promote homeownership this year. The proposal also includes $50 million in the budget this year, and $150 million per year after that to pay for the administrative costs of the program and the interest costs of the revenue bonds.

The program envisions helping some 7,700 borrowers a year, according to estimates made by the program’s designers based on home price projections. A start date for the proposed program has not been indicated.

If approved, the program would begin issuing interest-free second mortgage loans covering up to 30% of a home’s purchase price, though lawmakers expect many of the loans would cover 17%, asking borrowers to include 3% of their own money or pair the loan with other first-time buyer programs.

The interest-free loans would be paid back into a state fund whenever the home was sold, or if a bigger mortgage was acquired in a cash-out refinancing. For instance, if the fund provided 20% toward the purchase price of the home, the fund would get back its initial investment, as well as a 20% share of any increase in the home’s value. 

The program would reinvest those proceeds, giving the fund the ability to make new loans for eligible participants, even if prices have risen significantly.

As long as home prices rise, the plan would create equity for people who otherwise would have remained renters. The program also would generate enough returns for the state to help future homebuyers. 

If prices fall, homeowners might still gain some equity and the fund would absorb the losses, program planners said.

Building generational wealth

The program is intended to build as much flexibility as possible. Buyers who have lived in historically low-income neighborhoods can receive priority for some of the funds and can use shared appreciation loans to buy in their current neighborhoods or buy homes elsewhere.

“We need to make sure that the state’s homeownership assistance program serves people in all parts of the state, including in its high cost areas,” said Micah Weinberg, chief executive of the nonprofit group California Forward, which oversaw drafting the proposal.

“We cannot wait until more housing is built for these communities to begin to build the generational wealth that they were locked out of and deeply deserve,” he said during a recent legislative hearing.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Pick-Your-Opponent Ploy Fails for Rob Bonta

It was a ploy, much like one first used in the modern era of California politics by the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston in his 1986 reelection bid. The tactic worked that time.

But radio ads that hit California airwaves in large quantities during May, as the primary election approached, did not work this spring.

The ads touted the state attorney general candidacy of previously little known Republican candidate Eric Early, the most conservative hopeful in the running and an unapologetic supporter of ex-President Donald Trump.

They were funded primarily by a pro-labor political action committee whose desire was to create as easy a path to election as possible for the appointed Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta, by far the most liberal candidate in the field.

Bonta backers did not want his November opponent to be the most credible Republican in the field, former prosecutor Nathan Hochman, a party-backed hopeful who pledges to be tougher on criminals than Bonta – a longtime supporter of the “no-cash-bail” system overwhelmingly nixed by voters in 2020.

Bonta has also threatened numerous cities with costly lawsuits if they don’t knuckle under by OKing large amounts of new housing construction as called for by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, whose figures have been labeled unreliable by the state’s nonpartisan auditor.

The radio ad sponsors plain hope was that California’s top two “jungle primary” would give Bonta an opponent far less electable than Hochman might turn out to be. But Hochman holds a significant edge over Early with most votes counted. The final count might not be known for weeks, but Hochman is Bonta’s apparent November opponent.

As an incumbent in a state where no Democratic statewide officeholder has lost a reelection bid since the 1980s, there was never much doubt Bonta would win the primary. But one nuance of top two is that even with a clear Bonta majority in the primary, he still would need to run again in November against the No. 2 finisher.

Knowing this, Bonta’s supporters wanted to split the Republican vote between Early and Hochman and allow no-party-preference candidate Anne Marie Schubert, the Sacramento County district attorney, to sneak into the fall runoff. That didn’t happen, as Hochman took second place and  Early third, both far ahead of Schubert.

Bonta backers figured Hochman could be tougher for Bonta to beat because he had major-party backing, while Schubert was strictly on her own and Early would be hurt by strong anti-Trump feeling in California.

The system is significantly different today than in the pre-top two days when Cranston, feeling threatened by the moderate Republican Silicon Valley Congressman Ed Zschau, encouraged backers to donate more than $100,000 to American Independent Party candidate Edward Vallen, who used it mostly for radio ads strikingly similar to this spring’s ads touting Early. They essentially said Zschau was dishonest, claiming Vallen and Cranston were the only candidates in the race with integrity.

Cranston eventually won reelection by just 104,000 votes, while Vallen pulled 109,000, including many that figured to go to Zschau if the ultra-conservative Vallen had not been a factor, albeit a minor one.

The ploy infuriated Republicans at the time, but it worked for Cranston, very likely responsible for the last of the four terms he served before Democrat Barbara Boxer won his old seat in 1992.

Click here to read the full article in The Sun

California Tops Nation’s Highest Gas Prices at $6.43 Per Gallon

California is once again at the top of the charts, leading the nation in… wait for it… gas and diesel prices.

AAA reports today’s national average of $5.014 per gallon — California comes in at a cool $6.436 per gallon for Regular, and nearly $7.00 per gallon for Diesel.

California’s prices greatly top the national averages: The average for a gallon of regular gas in California is $6.436 per gallon, and a gallon of diesel is $6.991.

The Globe just took the photo above Monday June 13, 2022 at a Chevron gas station in Sacramento, CA.

With Regular at $6.79 and Diesel at $7.39, California’s gas prices are much higher than the state average and even higher than Hawaii and Alaska.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday:

“California, Oregon and Washington have traditionally had higher fuel costs than the national average due to a lack of refineries and pipelines that can pump in domestic oil, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at price tracker GasBuddy. These states have to pay higher prices to ship in oil, much of it from abroad, which then gets passed down to the consumer, he said.”

AAA reports that Georgia drivers are paying on average $4.484 per gallon of gas – the lowest in the country.

Florida drivers are paying $4.891 per gallon of gas.

Indiana drivers are paying $5.221 per gallon of gas.

Tennessee drivers are paying $4.642 per gallon of gas.

Mississippi drivers are paying $4.524 per gallon of gas.

Texas drivers are paying $4.664 per gallon of gas.

California drivers are paying $6.436 per gallon of gas.

The Wall Street Journal noted that “states along the Gulf Coast, including Texas and Louisiana, are among the states with the cheapest gas because of the abundance of fuel refineries, pipelines and domestic sources of oil in the region.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Has California’s Top-Two Primary System Worked?

By happenstance, last week’s “top two” primary election marked the 10th anniversary of the system that dramatically changed California’s political dynamics.

Prior to 2012, California had a closed primary system in which registered voters of the two major parties separately chose their parties’ candidates to face each other in the general election.

Critics said the system had a polarizing effect because candidates won their nominations by appealing to activist elements which tended to be very liberal in the Democratic Party and very conservative in the Republican Party. The rising numbers of independent voters, registered in neither party, were discouraged from participating in primary elections, which affected the outcomes of other issues, such as ballot measures.

In a top-two system, labeled a “jungle primary” by its opponents, all candidates for an office are listed on the same ballot and the two top finishers, regardless of party, then duel in the November general election.

It came about because in 2009, Democratic leaders of the state Senate desperately needed one more vote to pass a controversial budget and turned to moderate Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado to provide it. However, Maldonado — with the support of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — insisted that his vote hinged on placing the top-two primary before voters.

Democrats eventually agreed and Proposition 14, creating the top-two system, appeared  on the June 2010 primary ballot with Maldonado and Schwarzenegger contending that it would give moderates and pragmatists in both parties better chances of winning legislative and congressional seats. The leaders of every political party opposed the measure but voters passed it handily.

Has it worked as promised? Mostly, yes.

As Republicans became largely irrelevant in the Legislature, business groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce nurtured business-friendly Democrats, using the top-two system. Although Democrats have supermajorities in both legislative houses, the substantial blocs of moderates have blunted efforts by progressive groups to enact their left-leaning agendas — single-payer health care being the most obvious example.

The system has its drawbacks, such as inviting mischievous tactics. For instance, operatives of one party sometimes clandestinely recruit multiple candidates in the other party to fragment the vote and help two candidates of the same party finish 1-2 in the primary. It’s happened a couple of times.

A variation of that trick, employed by Democrats in recent years, including this one, is encouraging voters of the opposing party to favor the most conservative Republican candidate, thereby making it easier for the Democrat to win.

Gavin Newsom’s 2018 campaign for governor devoted a lot of attention to Republican candidate John Cox, helping him finish second in the top-two primary, because Newsom did not want to face Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, in November.

The top-two system inadvertently allowed Republicans to shoot themselves in the foot this year when six of them ran in state Senate District 4, which sprawls through 13 mostly rural counties southeast of Sacramento and has a GOP voter registration plurality.

With so many running, they fragmented the GOP vote, thus allowing two Democrats, Tim Robertson and Marie Alvarado-Gil, to finish 1-2 and handing the seat to the other party.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Californians Deserve Relief From High Gas Prices: Michelle Steel

With the official start of summer just weeks away, families are getting ready to pack up the car and hit the road, visiting places like our beautiful Orange County beaches and our world class theme parks.

It’s estimated that the average family spends 23 hours on summer road trips. But this year during their travels, families are being hit with some of the highest gas prices they’ve ever seen. In fact, Californians are paying the highest gas prices in the country. The average price for a gallon of gas in our state – about $6.40 – has gone up more than 30% in the last year.

In some places across Southern California, gas is more than $7 a gallon. After months of higher prices at the pump, you don’t need to read national news headlines to know that people are fed up.

Included in the $6.40 gallon of gas is nearly $1.20 in taxes and fees, 51 cents of which is the state’s gas tax. This year the state of California has a budget surplus of almost $100 billion, thanks to state Democrats having collected an extra $55 billion in taxes. Those dollars belong in your pocket, not Gov. Gavin Newsom’s.

Despite bipartisan calls in Congress for Newsom to suspend the tax, and state lawmakers’ opportunity to provide relief for California families, nothing has been done to alleviate these skyrocketing costs. Instead, in just a few weeks on July 1, the gas tax is going to increase to 54 cents a gallon. This is on top of record-high inflation, which is costing the average American household an extra $5,200 this year. It’s time to repeal the state gas tax entirely and begin providing relief to hard-working Californians.

Inflation is just another tax on every American, and in California we already pay some of the highest taxes in the entire country. Repealing this tax could save families up to $10 every time they visit a gas station. But this tax repeal, though helpful, would ultimately be a band aid on a much bigger issue.

The reality is that the United States and California could be strong leaders in the energy independence movement, but liberal policies are holding us back and American families are the ones paying the price. The U.S. is the largest oil producing country in the world, responsible for almost 20% of worldwide crude oil production.

We have the resources and the tools to produce our own supply. Instead, we’re reliant on markets run by dictators like Vladimir Putin and Nicolás Maduro. The United States cannot be a leader on the world stage while beholden to foreign dictators’ oil.

Major U.S. refineries are shutting down while the Biden Administration moves further away from oil and gas production, completely halting new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

40 years ago, California produced 61% of the oil that the state consumed. By 2019 that number had fallen by half, and now the state imports 37% of its oil from Saudi Arabia. We also receive major imports from Iraq. Shockingly, we produce less than 1% of the oil used within our state.

We have the resources right here at home to bring down costs and produce energy to supply our needs. President Biden and national Democrats have been leading the charge to close U.S. refineries by creating stricter regulations that are fueling the crisis we see today. California and the U.S. should use their state-of-the-art technology to be leaders in oil refining.

Unfortunately, the U.S. only has 18% of the world’s refineries, this hurts our economy in many ways, these are high skilled, high paying jobs that could be in California.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register