The truth behind California’s hidden gas tax

By Senator Pat Bates
Published in the San Diego Union Tribune
Aug 29, 2016

When Californians pay gas taxes at the pump, we expect that money to go toward California’s roads and bridges. Unfortunately, this is not entirely the case.

According to a letter earlier this year from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), Californians are paying 11 cents more for per gallon of gasoline (13 cents more for diesel) this year due to the state’s “hidden” gas tax. That means drivers are spending $2 billion more annually for a tax that was never even voted on by the Legislature or voters. It is brought to you by the unelected bureaucrats at the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

I call this tax “hidden” because it is not directly imposed on consumers. Oil suppliers pay this tax first and then pass it on to drivers at the pump. The Legislature never even debated the tax as it gave CARB broad powers in 2006 to make such a decision in the name of fighting greenhouse gases.

California’s drivers already pay the highest average price for regular gas in the nation at more than $2.78 per gallon. As part of that price, we pay the nation’s fifth highest gas tax (state and federal) at more than 59 cents per gallon.

You would think that with the hidden gas tax revenue coming into Sacramento, drivers would be receiving some real benefit. However, the LAO has reported that there is no additional decrease in greenhouse emissions despite state spending. Furthermore, the state is spending billions on greenhouse programs without any metrics or accountability.

Based on information derived from a CARB report, of the $1.5 billion spent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions last year, more than $1.3 billion went to programs with a “to be determined” greenhouse gas reduction estimate. More than 300 of the 418 projects currently funded do not have an estimated greenhouse gas reduction. In one curious example, CARB spent more than $1.5 million to conduct “tree inventories” throughout the state. That is $1.5 million we could be spending to repair potholes.

Worst of all, the hidden gas tax is the biggest ongoing funding source for the high-speed rail boondoggle, a project that will cost at least $64 billion and will burden future generations of taxpayers.

So California’s drivers are paying higher gas taxes for pet projects instead of repairing our roads. Is it any surprise that drivers — me included — are wary of the state’s spending priorities?

So when some in Sacramento say they need more taxes to fix the roads, drivers can be forgiven if they thumb their noses at such a request.

How about we use the $2 billion in hidden gas taxes we already pay to improve our transportation infrastructure instead? I co-authored a bill with Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, that would have done just that, but Democrats defeated it on a partisan vote last September. I think this is a common-sense idea, and I will keep fighting to make it law.

I have also co-authored Assembly Bill 2066 by Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, that would inform drivers how much they are paying at the pump due to the hidden gas tax. The notice would be posted at service stations and it would bring some transparency to a tax that many may not know about. The good news is that an Assembly committee recently approved AB 2066, so there is some hope at the Capitol.

Ultimately, the Legislature must provide greater oversight and accountability for how cap-and-trade dollars are spent. As lawmakers start working on the 2016-17 state budget to meet a June 15 deadline, it would be prudent to re-examine CARB’s spending rather than just rubber-stamping it.

Anything less is unfair to the drivers who are paying for a hidden gas tax that they never approved.

Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, is a member of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and represents the 36th Senate District in the Legislature, which covers northern San Diego and southern Orange counties.

Imprisoned felons could determine outcome of local elections

By Senator Pat Bates
Published in the Orange County Register
Aug 28, 2016

As a former social worker, I believe in giving people second chances. But allowing felons to vote while still behind bars? That makes no sense.

Yet Democrats in the state Legislature recently approved Assembly Bill 2466 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego. It would allow convicted felons serving their sentences in county jail to vote while behind bars. The bill is now with Gov. Brown and Californians should urge him to veto it.

AB2466 follows the state’s public safety “realignment” law that the governor signed in 2011. Realignment is designed to reduce the state’s prison population by sending inmates with “lower-level” felonies to county jails. Under AB2466, these inmates would vote in the district where they are incarcerated. For example, an inmate whose home residence is in San Clemente would be able to vote for local races affecting Santa Ana, since that is where Orange County’s Central Jail is located.

Why should criminals behind bars have the opportunity to affect local elections? Many felons spending time in county jail are not residents of the city in which the jail is located. These individuals who are in a county jail may have zero connection to any of the issues going on in that city, have no vested interest, or perhaps a negative one. Given that we have seen local elections determined by a handful of votes in recent years, it is not right to potentially have felons determine the outcome in close races.

AB2466 presents some interesting scenarios: Imagine jailed inmates participating in the election of the same Superior Court judge who is hearing their case. Will future jail bookings now include fingerprints, mugshots, and “don’t forget to fill out your voter registration card?”

Those who support AB2466 also contend that it will help enhance the civic participation of all eligible voters. Indeed, the bill is the latest in a series of efforts to increase voter turnout in California. In recent years, proposals have included reducing the lead time to register before voting to 15 days, same-day voter registration, permanent absentee voting, automatic registration at the DMV, automatic voter registration for college students, pre-registration for high school students and even extending registration and voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds.

But these efforts have not been effective. Despite decades of making it easier to vote and public officials imploring citizens to go to the polls, a 2015 report issued by the Public Policy Institute of California regarding state voting trends shows that turnout has slightly declined since the 2000 elections. The November presidential election that year saw turnout among voters at just above 75 percent. Turnout for the 2012 November election was about the same. And voter turnout during June elections has plummeted from just above 50 percent in 2000 to less than 30 percent over those same 12 years. Making it easier to register and vote simply has not resulted in more Californians casting ballots.

I can understand the desire to encourage voter turnout. When eligible citizens do not register and do not exercise their right to vote, the very legitimacy of our elected representative form of government can be called into question. But the PPIC also tells us that, based on public opinion surveys, the No. 1 reason voters do not register to vote is their low trust in government. Do we really think allowing felons to vote while serving their sentences in county jail will increase trust in government?

AB2466 is a solution in search of a problem, and deserves to be vetoed.

Senator Patricia “Pat” Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, represents the 36th Senate District in the California Legislature, which covers South Orange County, North San Diego County and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Minimum wage will worsen opportunity inequality

By Senator Pat Bates
Published in the Coast News
Apr 22, 2016

When Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a new law to increase the minimum wage 50 percent by 2022, it was hailed by some as an historic achievement that will reduce income inequality. But I fear that when the law is fully implemented, income inequality will remain virtually unchanged while making opportunity inequality even worse.

The new law is a short-term “fix” that will create long-term negative impacts. Although the new law gives businesses with 25 employees or fewer more time to comply, this “concession” merely delays the inevitable choices they may have to make — reduce hours, raise prices or cut workers — or all of the above.

When the Legislature considered the minimum wage proposal, I received many calls and emails from concerned constituents and small business owners from North County and beyond. Some said they may have to move to another state with lower costs. My discussions with them confirmed my belief that raising the minimum wage is a false promise to those who are struggling to get ahead.

Let me share what I have heard from businesses on Main Street.

First, they have had to absorb higher costs from the Affordable Care Act and new sick pay mandates. They are also dealing with increases in the cost of workers’ compensation insurance and new costs for complying with various environmental regulations.

And these businesses are still struggling to absorb increases to the minimum wage that the state mandated in recent years: a 12.5 percent increase in July 2014 and another 11.1 percent hike earlier this year.

Now the minimum wage is set to incrementally increase from the current $10 to $15 in 2022, and perhaps more as it will be indexed annually for inflation thereafter. If you ran a small business, could your budget absorb that kind of increase while keeping the same number of employees?

When the California Restaurant Association and I held a roundtable discussion last October with local restaurant owners at Encinitas’ Roxy Restaurant and Ice Cream, they said that existing laws and regulations made it difficult for them to stay in business. Rising costs could force them to hire less. It is not just small business owners saying this. University of California, Irvine, economics professor David Neumark recently estimated that the minimum wage increase could cost five to ten percent of low-skilled workers their jobs.

One medium-sized business I spoke with, that currently has multiple locations, outlined the impacts that closing just one location will have:

  • 30 employees will lose their jobs, many of which are senior citizens supplementing their retirement incomes;
  • 25 sales representatives will have one less account to call on;
  • There will be one more vacancy in a community shopping center; and
  • There will be a loss in sales tax revenue to the state.

This is just one example of the impact to the private sector. But what about the public sector?

The hit to California’s General Fund has been tabbed by the governor’s own Department of Finance at $4 billion annually by 2021. This is because the state employs many workers earning minimum wage. It is ironic that the governor once opposed increasing the minimum wage because it would hike government’s cost. But apparently he found an extra $4 billion each year to pay for the new mandate.

Given that the governor is saying that the state does not have enough money to repair our deteriorating roads and bridges, his decision to add another $4 billion to the state budget is curious. This tells me that Sacramento has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

As a former social worker who worked in some of our state’s most troubled communities, I found that many people just wanted an opportunity to move up. Their goal was not to earn a higher minimum wage because they did not want to be stuck in a minimum wage job for life. What they wanted was a good education and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. California should be focusing on boosting educational opportunities for all and making it easier to invest in our state.

Instead, California has just passed a mandate making it more expensive to create jobs, which may lead to a perverse result — fewer jobs.

Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) represents the 36th Senate District in the California Legislature, which covers North San Diego County, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and South Orange County.

Even with record state revenue, spending, tax hikes planned this year

By Senator Pat Bates
Published in the Orange County Register
Jan 24, 2016

This promises to be a pivotal year for taxpayers. With special interests and their allies gearing up to push for tax increases at the November ballot box, we will see whether Californians have had enough or will give the green light for more spending. Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2016-17 budget plan sets a record for spending while reflecting a modest, yet uneven, economic recovery. It should be clear that raising taxes is not necessary.

I give the governor credit for having a dose of fiscal responsibility in his budget. I am encouraged that he has heeded Republican priorities to protect education opportunities for students, pay down debt and build the state’s Rainy Day Fund. We must continue to do these things to ensure that California has a bright future.

The governor correctly warned the Legislature that “it would be shortsighted in the extreme to now embark upon a host of new spending only to see massive cuts when the next recession hits.”

Despite some positive elements, the governor’s budget should not be seen as conservative. The budget is lacking in several areas, which I believe are designed to soften opposition to future tax increases at a time of expanding government and rising state revenue.

The budget’s General Fund would spend $122.6 billion, 6.2 percent more than the $115.4 billion approved for this year. State tax revenue continues to grow – from $116.9 billion this year to $124.4 billion next year. Compared with just seven months ago, the state now estimates it will receive $5.9 billion in unexpected new revenue. This windfall is clear evidence that the state does not “need” to increase taxes to fund essential services.

Critical priorities also remain unaddressed. While the governor’s budget does include a $3.6 billion proposal to improve our state’s roads and highways, it is basically the same plan that failed to pass last year. That proposal includes $3 billion of increased gas and diesel taxes, plus a new road user fee of $65 per vehicle – ignoring the fact that California just raised the price at the gas pump last year through its “cap-and-trade” policy, which already forces drivers to pay the nation’s highest gas taxes.

The budget ignores a proposal that Senate Republicans championed last year, which would have provided nearly $3 billion for California’s transportation infrastructure without raising taxes. Instead, the budget continues to use cap-and-trade dollars to fund the unpopular high-speed rail project.

The budget also shortchanges people with developmental disabilities. It provides a minor rate increase for community-based services, but more is needed to sustain the providers who offer vital services to help those with disabilities achieve independence. After years of cuts, the governor’s proposal falls far short of the overall 10 percent increase that advocates are requesting and that Democrats and Republicans support.

With smart spending decisions, we can fund critical priorities without raising taxes. Yet, there are efforts underway to raise taxes by watering down Proposition 13’s protections for homeowners and job creators. There are also efforts to extend 2012’s Prop. 30 income tax increases beyond their 2019 expiration date, even as Sacramento is spending at record levels, and Californians are bearing one of the heaviest tax burdens in the nation.

The governor’s budget rollout is just the beginning of a long process to produce a final budget in June, which I hope will meet our state’s challenges and protect taxpayers.

Patricia C. Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, represents the 36th state Senate District.

Use high-speed rail funds to fix California roads

By Senator Pat Bates
Published in the San Diego Union Tribune
Nov 11, 2015

What is more important to you and your neighbors? Better roads for your commute or a high-speed train to San Francisco that continues to escalate in cost? If Sacramento politicians have their way, that answer would be high-speed rail despite ominous signs.

Recently, news outlets highlighted a once-private report that showed a large estimated increase in the cost of building the initial segment of the project. An engineering consulting firm briefed state officials in October 2013 that the cost of the project’s first phase from Burbank to Merced had risen 31 percent, from $27.3 billion to $35.7 billion, not including inflation. Yet the state did not include the increase in its 2014 business plan.

The document showed the cost of the entire project would increase 5 percent. Factoring in inflation, the total project would go from the existing estimate of $68 billion to more than $71 billion. That may not sound like much, but the project was originally projected to cost $43 billion when California’s voters approved bond funding in 2008.

Some transportation experts believe high-speed rail will ultimately cost more than $100 billion. Given that the costs of many public works projects have soared beyond original estimates (for example, the new eastern span of the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge went 300 percent over budget), such predictions are plausible.

Even worse, the state only has a fraction of what it needs to cover the current $68 billion estimate. Private investors have not yet put in money and there are no additional federal dollars coming from Washington D.C. any time soon.

While Sacramento politicians are moving full-speed ahead with high-speed rail, they are also pleading poverty over California’s crumbling roads. There is no debate about the need to repair our roads. But Democrats and Republicans differ on how to address the problem.

The governor and legislative Democrats have proposed raising taxes and fees to fix our roads. The governor wants California’s drivers to pay an additional $65 a year via a per-vehicle highway user fee and an additional six cents per gallon at the pump (11 cents for diesel).

While there are some elements of the governor’s plan that I can support — such as reducing bureaucratic inefficiencies at Caltrans — I believe Californians are already paying more than enough in taxes.

Consider this — including federal gas taxes, Californians are paying more than 59 cents per gallon, which is 10 cents more than the national average. That does not include another dime per gallon in cap-and-trade carbon fees (also known as the “hidden gas tax”) that would make California the second highest taxed state. Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration ranks California’s highways as among the worst in the nation.

We must repair our roads and I am open to reforms to ensure that all drivers pay their fair share. In fact, I have co-authored and supported measures this year that would fix our roads without raising taxes through more efficient spending. Furthermore, I supported Measures M1 (1990) and M2 (2006) in my home Orange County that raised funds for local road repairs tied to strict accountability standards. Voters approved both measures by strong margins.

But simply raising gas taxes at a time when total state spending for 2015-16 is expected to be $266 billion, which is $11 billion more than last year’s, is an insult to taxpayers.

If the state has more money than last year and has money to burn on a high-speed train, than why not use that money instead on our roads?

In fact, there is a plan to do just that. I have co-authored a measure written by state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, that would allow Californians to vote on whether they want to continue funding the high-speed rail project and immediately freeze any further spending until after a vote next year. If approved by the voters, any unspent high-speed rail dollars would be redirected to repair and construct new state and local roadways.

While a Senate committee rejected our bill on a partisan vote, our bill proves that a positive alternative exists to fix our roads without higher taxes. Sacramento is not lacking in money but in priorities.

Until more Sacramento politicians realize the financial risks of high-speed rail, we will continue to see them plead poverty on roads while they shovel more money towards a project that continues to grow in cost.

Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) is a member of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Development Committee and represents the 36th Senate District in the California Legislature, which covers northern San Diego and southern Orange counties.

Pat Bates Earns Endorsement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

For Immediate Release
May 9, 2014
Contact: Dave Gilliard
Phone: 916-626-6804

Laguna Nigel, CA – Today Republican candidate for Senate District 36, Pat Bates, announced receiving the endorsement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA). The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is the largest and most respected taxpayer protection organization in the State of California and is famous for their work to pass Proposition 13 in 1978.

“I’m proud to have the support of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association,” said Pat Bates. “As Senator I will put my foot down and stop the attempts to weaken Prop 13, and I’m proud to partner with this important organization to do it.”

Pat Bates has a well-earned reputation as a local leader on issues of importance to Orange and San Diego counties. Pat Bates served in the California State Assembly from 1998 to 2004. After completing three successful terms as Assemblywoman for California’s 73rd Assembly District, Pat was elected to the Board of Supervisors by the voters of the 5th District in 2006.

In the Assembly, Pat was the founding Chair of the Republican Women’s Caucus and she was appointed to the prestigious Little Hoover Commission. She was also appointed to serve on the historic California Performance Review Commission – responsible for providing recommendations on reforming State Government and its operations. Throughout her career, Pat has worked to advance conservative principles of government, including lower taxes, less spending and waste.

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Congressman Darrell Issa Endorses Pat Bates For Senate

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2014
Contact: Dave Gilliard
Phone: 916-626-6804

Laguna Niguel — Pat Bates announced receiving the endorsement of U.S. Representative Darrell Issa in her campaign for the State Senate today. Congressman Darrell Issa represents the 49th Congressional District which overlaps many of the same cities of the 36th Senate District including the cities of San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Coto de Caza and Ladera Ranch, Oceanside and Carlsbad.

“I’m honored to have the endorsement of Congressman Darrel Issa,” said Pat Bates. “Congressman Issa is a true leader in Washington fighting to hold politicians accountable. I plan on bringing the same fighting spirit to Sacramento and be an advocate for taxpayers like I always have.”

Pat Bates has a well-earned reputation as a local leader on issues of importance to Orange and San Diego counties. Pat Bates served in the California State Assembly from 1998 to 2004. After completing three successful terms as Assemblywoman for California’s 73rd Assembly District, Pat was elected to the Board of Supervisors by the voters of the 5th District in 2006.

In the Assembly, Pat was the founding Chair of the Republican Women’s Caucus and she was appointed to the prestigious Little Hoover Commission. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to serve on his historic California Performance Review Commission – responsible for providing recommendations on reforming State Government and its operations. Throughout her career, Pat has worked to advance conservative principles of government, including lower taxes, less spending and waste.

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Senator Mark Wyland Endorses Pat Bates for Senate

For Immediate Release
March 7, 2014
Contact: Dave Gilliard
Phone: 916-626-6804

Laguna Niguel — Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates announced receiving the endorsement of Senator Mark Wyland in her campaign for the State Senate. Senator Mark Wyland is a long time representative of San Diego and Orange Counties.

“I’m excited to have Senator Mark Wyland’s support,” said Bates. “Senator Wyland has been such a great public servant to the people of San Diego County for so many years. I’m honored that he has trusted me to continue his legacy in representing North County in the State Senate.”

Pat Bates has a well-earned reputation as a local leader on issues of importance to Orange and San Diego counties. Pat Bates served in the California State Assembly from 1998 to 2004. After completing three successful terms as Assemblywoman for California’s 73rd Assembly District, Pat was elected to the Board of Supervisors by the voters of the 5th District in 2006.

In the Assembly, Pat was the founding Chair of the Republican Women’s Caucus and she was appointed to the prestigious Little Hoover Commission. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to serve on his historic California Performance Review Commission – responsible for providing recommendations on reforming State Government and its operations. Throughout her career, Pat has worked to advance conservative principles of government, including lower taxes, less spending and waste.

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Bates Earns Important CRA Endorsement

For Immediate Release
March 4, 2014
Contact: Dave Gilliard
Phone: 916-626-6804

Laguna Niguel, CA – Orange County Supervisor and conservative Republican candidate for State Senate, Pat Bates, announced receiving the endorsement of the California Republican Assembly (CRA) today. The CRA is a coveted endorsement among Republican candidates as the organization is the oldest volunteer organization in the California Republican Party.

“We know exactly what Pat Bates will bring to the State Senate,” said CRA President John Briscoe. “She has an unwavering commitment to Republican principles and a long established record to back it up. That’s why she has our support.”

Pat Bates was the driving force behind Laguna Niguel’s campaign for cityhood and became its first Mayor upon the City’s incorporation. She served four terms as Mayor and then continued serving as a City Council Member until her election to the State Assembly in 1998. After completing three successful terms as Assemblywoman for California’s 73rd Assembly District, Pat was elected to the Board of Supervisors by the voters of the 5th District in 2006.

In the Assembly, Pat was the founding Chair of the Republican Women’s Caucus and she was appointed to the prestigious Little Hoover Commission. Throughout her career, Pat has worked to advance conservative principles of government, including lower taxes, less spending and waste.

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