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Proposed gas tax cap could save money at the pump

April 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Wherever you fill up in California, gasoline is painfully expensive. The American Petroleum Institute says California's gasoline taxes and fees average 69 cents a gallon -- the second highest in the country. But small relief may be on the way.

State Sen. Bob Dutton has proposed the state cap some of the gas taxes. The excise tax would be limited to 35.7 cents a gallon and the sales tax would only apply to the first $4 dollars of the price of gasoline. It'll save about 8 cents a gallon if the price reaches $5 a gallon.

"The excise tax that we pay, the sales tax is also calculated on that too. So it's the taxes on taxes. I, for one, have had it with that. It's time to say no," said Dutton.

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 you'll have to dish out more for hitting a pothole.

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

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

"What are we talking about? $2? Not worth it to me," said Salazar. "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.

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

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

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