How Has the Gas Price Hike Affected California Residents?

April 29, 2019 Updated: May 1, 2019

In the last month, California’s gas prices averaged $4.03 per gallon, $1.18 more than the national average. It comes as California’s gasoline taxes are set to increase by an additional 5.6 cents per gallon on July 1. Current California and federal gasoline taxes stand at 55.5 cents and 18.4 cents respectively as of January, totaling to 73.9 cents per gallon. How is this affecting the average Californian?

The state government has decided to look into the issue. On April 23, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the California Energy Commission for an analysis on the state’s gas prices by May 15.

Higher taxes, as well as California’s strict environmental regulations and fuel standards, have contributed to the rise in prices. These are the highest gas prices California has seen since 2014. Over the course of one month, prices have increased by about 68 cents per gallon.

According to Gas Buddy’s senior petroleum analyst Dan McTeague, a supply crunch resulting from refining disruptions in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas have contributed to the rise. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco drivers have seen an increase in their gas prices by 72 cents and 71 cents respectively.

In a statement to Fox Business, McTeague said he predicted another 10-cent rise in gas prices for Californians.

The incoming 5.6 cent gas tax increase in July is part of the continuing effects of SB1, which raised gas prices by 12 cents in November 2017 with the ability for future increases. The gasoline tax was said to be the solution to fixing California’s highways, freeways, and infrastructure.

California voters had the opportunity to repeal SB1 with Proposition 6 in the 2018 midterm elections, but the repeal effort was rejected by 56.8 percent of the electorate, despite its popularity a month before the election. A Survey USA poll conducted in October 2018 showed 58 percent approval for Proposition 6, which would repeal SB1, with 29 percent opposed and 13 percent undecided.

Many claim that the reason why Proposition 6 didn’t pass was because of the final wording of the legislation on the ballots. Leading up to the election, the office of California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra approved word changes that removed any mention of a gas tax repeal and instead read, “Eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding. Requires certain fuel taxes and vehicle fees to be approved by the electorate.”

How Much More Are Californians Paying?

With gas prices skyrocketing, just how much money is the average Californian paying at the pump on a regular basis?

The top three most common cars in California are the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and Toyota Prius, according to Everquote. These sedans hold anywhere between 13 and 15 gallons of gasoline in their tanks. Assuming the average Californian fills up a 14-gallon sedan tank once a week with current gas prices at the $4.03 average, they are paying an average of $225.68 a month on gasoline, or $2,708 a year.

In neighboring Arizona, the average price of gasoline is $3.07, almost an entire dollar less than in California. Using the same metric, Arizonans are paying an average of $171.92 per month, or $2,063 per year. Arizonans pay 37.4 cents in state and federal gasoline taxes as of 2019.

The annual difference between the Californian and the Arizonan driver comes out at $645 a year. For many families making the median income in California, $67,169, this is quite a lot to bear.

As California has the highest gas prices in the union and the second-highest gas taxes after Pennsylvania, many have been questioning whether another increase in gas taxes on top of the supply crunch is the right move.

Good news could be around the corner, though, as national gas prices are expected to drop during the summer, falling into the $2.50–$2.70 range, according to GasBuddy. While this seems promising on the surface, it may not reflect much of a difference in California, as the state’s gas taxes and strict refining regulations could mitigate any drop.