California Commentary

Legislature’s gas tax hike goes down the memory hole

By Jon Coupal

In George Orwell’s 1984, there is a particularly gripping scene where the protagonist, Winston, is being interrogated by O’Brien, a member of the party leadership.

O’Brien shows Winston a photo that proves that three party members who were executed for treason were, in fact, innocent. O’Brien then drops the photo into what is called a “memory hole” and the photo is incinerated.

“Ashes,” O’Brien says. “Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It never existed.”

The book is meant as a cautionary tale, but one that was apparently lost on Assembly Democrats last week when they decided to paper over one of their more blatant abuses of power and “memory hole” Kevin Kiley’s AB 1638.

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago in this space we talked about AB 1638. It would have suspended the gas tax for six months.

When the bill was heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee, it was an ambush. Alex Lee, D-San Jose, immediately moved to gut the bill and replace it with a new tax on gas suppliers with the proceeds going to a supposed rebate.

There was no debate. There wasn’t even bill language for these new amendments that the committee could review. The chair of the committee, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, admitted that she had “not had the opportunity to dive in depth into this.”

But the bill passed out of committee anyway with an 8-4 vote. The gas tax cut had turned into a gas tax hike.

There was a problem though. Kiley, R-Rocklin, didn’t support the bill that now carried his name and no one on the committee would take ownership of it.

Jon Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA). He is a recognized expert in California fiscal affairs and has argued numerous tax cases before the courts.


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