SAN DIEGO — It’s been 73 days since Governor Gavin Newsom first proposed the idea of a gas tax rebate. While his original goal was to get the $400 debit cards to drivers by July, the timeline keeps getting longer. It could be September or October before anything starts going out.
Meanwhile, the average cost of gas passed $6 a gallon for the first time in California.
What’s Newsom's message to those waiting for his relief? He answered the question at his May budget revise.
“There is some practical realities that we've been very crystal clear about," Newsom said. "Nothing surprising”
He explained that legislatures wanted to see what California's wallet looked like after his budget reveal before committing to a final plan.
“There's probably wisdom in their point of view and approach," Newsom added. "Now, we can approach this issue with an understanding that we didn't have prior”
UC San Diego Political Science Dean Thad Kousser said it’s also about the difference in values.
“They're sort of three plans circulating in Sacramento," he explained. "The governor's plan, a plan from a bipartisan group of legislators, and a plan from some of the Democratic leaders. All of these would send out different money to different groups of people based on their values.”
What exactly are the values under question?
“The legislature wants to focus funding on low and middle-income Californians," Kousser said. "The governor wants to give it to everyone. So then there's a question of how much should we weigh equity and a family's need versus giving money to everyone because everyone pays taxes?"
Why can’t lawmakers just get in a room with the governor and come to a decision?
“Each side is now making their pitch to the public, and trying to win this battle of ideas," said Kousser. "Look, at the end of the day, Californians are going to need tax relief in July and August and September."
Then there’s the debate of who should send out the checks. Newsom wants to use the Department of Motor Vehicles for the very first time.
“I think anyone who's worked with the DMV knows that this may not be the number one most efficient bureaucracy in state politics,” he said.
The legislature wants to use the Tax Board.
"The Franchise Tax Board has a strong record of already rolling out the biggest stimulus in state history last year," Kousser said.
Kousser adds it would also be a happy coincidence if these checks go out in October right before the November election.
"There's nothing more that politicians like to do than send out a check or deliver something to voters on the eve of an election."
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