Jerry Brown Traded More Diesel Pollution For His Gas Tax Increase

Jerry Brown windmill (Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty)
Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty
Newport Beach, CA

Governor Jerry Brown cut a deal to pass his huge SB-1 gas tax increase through the state legislature by allowing big rig truckers to keep older and more polluting diesel trucks on California roads.

To reach a two-thirds majority of both houses in March for the $6 billion SB-1 “Road Repair & Accountability Act of 2017,” Gov. Brown had to cut lots of deals with interested parties. But one deal, which many environmentalists are now complaining about, involved inserting a paragraph into the bill that exempted heavy diesel trucks from the $16 billion cost of the just approved “Southern California Air Quality Management Plan” (SCAQMP).

The SCAQMP was aimed at forcing Californi’sa diesel-fueled big rigs, which regulators consider Southern California’s biggest greenhouse gas polluter, to accelerate the federal due date to comply with mandates to slash nitrogen oxides emissions by 45 percent to 2023, and then to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2031.

The measure would have forced California commercial diesel users to upgrade their vehicles after about 8 years, versus the 13 to 18-year federal replacement requirement. The ports of Long Beach and San Pedro estimated the Clean Truck Program fee for just 16,800 trucks to meet higher emissions standard would be $1.6 billion.

With the California Air Resources Board estimating there are about 1 million commercial diesel vehicles in California, the SCAQMP compliance cost could have been tens of billions of dollars. But Brown’s offer to let diesel truckers stay with the federal regulatory standard convinced the industry to support the tax and vehicle fee increases.

Breitbart News noted that in the first poll of registered votes after the California legislature passed  SB-1 to raise gas taxes and registration fees, ronly 44 percent of voters opposed the increase, 37 percent supported it, and 19 percent were undivided.

But the biggest reason the initial voter preference statistics were not extremely negative for what amounts to a $250-per-year cost for every rich and poor California family of 4, is the effective date was delayed until November 1 for the gas tax increase ,and January 1, 2018 for the vehicle registrations increase.

When Democrat Governor Grey Davis tripled the vehicle license fee in June 20, 2003, voters were so furious that they recalled him within 5 months, and elected Republican Arnold  Schwarzenegger.

Governor Brown is probably safe from voter retribution, because he will be termed out of office in 2018. But the legislature Democrats and their future gubernatorial candidate, will need to do a lot of explaining to convince voters that they needed a state-mandatedincrease in gasoline prices.