Gas price relief? Record prices driving debate in California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Record-high gas prices are driving debate in Sacramento.

Legislators are on the same page that they should help consumers, but they disagree over the best way to do it.

The signs are everywhere.

"Nowhere are people paying more for gas than in California," said Assm. Kevin Kiley, (R) Granite Bay. "Six dollars per gallon already for premium and we're not far from that for regular. This is making life so much more difficult for hard-working Californians."

California has the highest gas prices in the country -- at $5.74 per gallon, it's almost 80 cents per gallon higher than in Nevada, home to the second most expensive gas at $4.96.

Republicans in Sacramento are pushing a bill this week to suspend the state's gas tax for a year, knocking more than 50 cents per gallon off the cost for gas stations.

Democrats aren't jumping to pass the bill, but Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the potential for relief in his State of the State address last week.

"In January, we proposed a pause to the gas tax increase," he said, referring to a two-cent hike coming in July. "Now, it's clear we need to go farther. That's why, working with legislative leadership, I'll be submitting a proposal putting money back in the pockets of Californians to address rising gas prices."

The governor's office gave us a statement about the Republican proposal, saying it "can be manipulated to help line the pockets of petro-dictators and oil companies who are benefiting from the spike in oil prices across the world."

Newsom is calling instead for a tax rebate, sending billions of dollars directly to people in California.

Republicans say the tax rebate plan is vague and the money would reach Californians late.

A gas tax holiday could start immediately.

"Let's give the consumers a break that we can do right now," said Assm. James Gallagher, (R) Chico. "Let's not wait until budget time in June."

California's gas tax is the second highest in the country after Pennsylvania's.

The tax revenue pays for road construction and repairs, but Republicans say the state could backfill the lost revenue with part of a $45 billion budget surplus.

Whatever happens in Sacramento, analysts say gas prices should start coming down because crude oil prices have dropped almost 25% from their peak, below $100 a barrel for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine.
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