Lawmakers to take aim at high gas prices


A state lawmaker wants to help ease the pain at the pump by putting a cap on gas taxes. Under the proposal, the excise tax would be limited to 35.7 cents a gallon and the sales tax would only apply to the first $4 of the price of gasoline. It'll save about 8 cents a gallon if the price reaches $5 a gallon.

"The excise tax that you currently pay, there's also sales tax that's calculated on that too. So it's taxes on taxes, and I for one, have had it with that. It's time to say no," State Senator Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said.

But critics want to remind Californians that some of the gas taxes help pay for road repair, so the savings at the pump in taxes may mean drivers will have to dish out more for, say, hitting that pothole.

Bert Sandman of Transportation California said, "We spend about $2 billion a year on pothole repair, and the need is $6 billion and climbing. Each motorist spends an average of $586 on repairs a year on his or her vehicle."

A California Transportation Commission report late last year assessed the state needs roughly $350 billion to rehabilitate or maintain the current system, which is why driver Dan Salazar thinks the state shouldn't mess with capping the gas tax.

"What are we talking about, $2? Not worth it to me," he said. "If they do, what is that going to do to the highways and the bridges that need to be fixed?"

The savings, though, are attractive to some.

Andrew Steele is a college student who can only afford to fill up his tank a little at a time because of high prices at the pump.

Steele said, "If we could cap the tax, any savings is good for anybody right now. That's a step in the right direction."

Critics also point out the $20 billion dollar transportation bond that voters approved in 2006 runs out in two years so money for roads will become even more scarce. The gas tax cap proposal goes before the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

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