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San Diego County Supervisors are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to halt the gas tax for one year to provide relief from soaring gas prices.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to send a letter to the governor asking for a temporary suspension of the 51-cent-per-gallon state gas tax. They also asked Newsom to issue a separate tax rebate to California taxpayers and to ensure that consumers benefit from the gas tax hiatus by preventing oil companies from raising pump prices to match the reduction.

Nationally the average price of gas per gallon was $4.32 Tuesday, according to AAA, but in California it was more than a dollar higher at $5.75 per gallon. In some parts of San Diego it climbed over $6 per gallon in recent days.

“The gas prices hurt seniors on fixed income, low-income families, middle-class families and anyone who has to drive to work,” said Supervisor Jim Desmond, who brought the letter to the board with Supervisor Joel Anderson.

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The letter proposes that the governor use $6 billion from the expected state budget surplus of $45 billion to backfill lost revenue from a gas tax suspension.

“Why not take the $6 billion from that $45 billion surplus to ensure the maintenance of roads and infrastructure and give Californians a break during these financial stressful times,” Desmond said.

Desmond and Anderson, Republicans who represent largely rural areas, said the price hikes fall hardest on workers who live far from cities and have long commutes.

“My constituents in District 5 are disproportionately affected by gas price increase,” said Desmond, who represents North County and its backcountry communities.

Anderson, who represents the southeast portion of San Diego County, said many of his constituents have little choice but to drive to work and reported that he has received more than 2,000 calls about gas prices.

“The rising fuel price is really crushing my district,” Anderson said. “A lot of the folks who live in my district work in construction, and they couldn’t possibly take public transportation, no matter how they tried, because that’s not how they get to their workplace. When you look at people who live in more rural places, whether it’s Ramona or Pine Valley, it’s unfair to expect them to have these gas prices and keep their household budgets together.”

Board Chair Nathan Fletcher agreed, noting that many lower- and middle-income families also have older, less efficient vehicles.

“Working folks tend to have longest commutes because of the cost of housing, and they tend to have some of least fuel-efficient cars,” said Fletcher, a Democrat. “They’re certainly not driving a $140,000 Tesla with the ability to plug it into their solar-powered roof.”

Fletcher also asked the board to support the governor’s proposed tax rebate, noting that the two measures would provide additional financial relief. And he asked the board to advocate for a mechanism to ensure that gas companies actually lower prices if the tax is suspended.

Desmond and Anderson won guarded support from the other two Democrats on the board. Supervisors Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer agreed that action is necessary to address high gas prices but said a gas tax freeze would be a temporary fix.

“I do think this is a temporary solution to a long-term problem,” Vargas said. “Our dependency on cars is not sustainable, and we need to see solutions for transit and walkability. I’ll support the letter because of the principle and what it means to our communities.”

Vargas and Lawson-Remer said the effort to secure a gas tax holiday should not detract from the county’s goals of reaching energy independence and sustainability through public transit, alternative transportation and solar energy development.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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