Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to use a tax refund to ease the pressure Californians are feeling at the gas pump and double down on his commitment to lead the country’s transition away from fossil fuels, he announced Tuesday evening in his annual State of the State address.
Facing few political headwinds on his path to reelection and bolstered by record tax revenues, Newsom opened the speech by acknowledging the ongoing attack on Ukraine and tying that “geopolitical uncertainty” to the economic pressures squeezing Californians. With the average price of a gallon of gas soaring above $5 in the state, the governor vowed to include a tax refund in the revised state budget proposal he will release in May.
But he also resisted calls to expand local oil production in the face of President Biden’s ban on oil imports from Russia, saying there is a third way forward, a better way he dubbed “the California way.”
“At a time when we’ve been heating up and burning up, one thing we cannot do is repeat the mistakes of the past,” Newsom said, “by embracing polluters, drilling even more, which only leads to even more extreme weather, more extreme drought, more wildfire."
"Think about this — in just ... the past few years we’ve seen whole communities wiped off the map: Greenville, Paradise, Grizzly Flats. How many more are we willing to sacrifice? We need to be fighting polluters, not bolstering them," he added.
Newsom previously had proposed to delay a scheduled increase in the state’s gas tax, a decision buffered by the state’s surging revenues, which have continued to rise as the state bounces back from the pandemic. The governor highlighted those wins, noting the state’s impressive GDP growth and strong job growth over the past year.
A report from the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office released last month projected that the state will rake in at least $6 billion more than anticipated in Newsom’s January budget proposal.
A healthy budget windfall will allow Newsom and legislative Democrats to pursue record investments, like the $1.5 billion the governor wants to spent on electric vehicle charging stations, rebates for purchasing electric cars and local green initiatives.