SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — With California drivers paying more than $6 a gallon of gas and state officials deadlocked for months on how to remedy the situation, lawmakers in the state assembly announced Monday they would investigate oil companies, by whom they say they “abuse”. a historic situation for sucking profits from Californians’ wallets.”
Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon announced a bipartisan committee to investigate the gas price cut, with plans to poll oil companies, regulators and economists to find out why California’s gas prices are consistently the highest in the country.
California’s gas prices are currently the highest in the US, with the average price per gallon on Monday at $6.40 compared to the national average of $4.98.
“Our addiction to the gas engine has put us in a situation. But that doesn’t excuse the actions of those who pin California drivers down with one foot on our neck and one hand in our pockets,” Rendon said.
Republicans poked fun at the probe Monday, blaming record-high gas prices in California on Democrats for refusing to temporarily stop taxing gasoline like other states have done to control costs. Democratic President Joe Biden said Monday he was considering temporarily staying the process federal gas taxa move that could save drivers 18.4 cents per gallon.
“Instead of suspending the state’s gas tax, are Sacramento Democrats forming a committee?” said Assemblyman Vince Fong, the Republican vice chair of the assembly’s Budget Committee. “Enough with the political escapades. Suspend the gas tax now.”
California Democrats say they fear the gas tax suspension would only benefit big oil companies, which state regulators have accused in the past of artificially inflating prices in a state with more than 36 million registered vehicles on the road.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president and CEO of the Western States Petroleum Association, said she agrees that Californians are paying too much for fuel and warned “it can only get worse” if state officials don’t “take responsibility and act, in order not to change the dangerous mixture of bans, decrees and bad energy policies that they impose on our state.”
“This Legislature and the Governor should urgently address these political matters rather than holding press conferences calling for further investigations that consistently state that our industry is acting responsibly,” Reheis-Boyd said.
California gas prices have historically been among the highest in the country, prompting a slew of previous studies and investigations by state officials — including an investigation by former Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who was outraged when prices in San Francisco hit $1.71 per year in 1999 gal reached.
State, local and federal taxes account for 85 cents for every gallon of gas sold in the state, with the cost of crude oil, distribution, marketing and profits accounting for everything else, according to the California Energy Commission.
But one Review 2019 Suggested by state regulators that major oil companies are “misleading and overcharging customers at up to $1 a gallon,” resulting in California drivers earning an additional $11.6 billion over five years compared to other states paid at the pump.
Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an investigation by the Attorney General, an investigation that is still pending nearly three years later.
Rather than suspend gas taxes, California Democrats want to use the state’s record-breaking nearly $100 billion budget surplus to send money directly to taxpayers to offset high fuel prices. But nothing has happened yet because the Democrats, who control the state legislature, couldn’t agree with Newsom on how to do it.
Rendon, the spokesman for the Democratic Assembly, said lawmakers made headway during marathon negotiating sessions with the Newsom government over the weekend. But “we’re not ready to make any announcements yet,” he said.
Republicans, meanwhile, held a news conference last week that marked 100 days since Democrats vowed to take action on high gas prices. Republicans don’t have enough seats in the legislature to pass legislation of their own.
“We’re still waiting with no relief in sight,” Assembly Republican Chairman James Gallagher said. “We must act now”
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