The Democratic governor’s announcement in his “State of the State” address Tuesday night comes as Californians brace for further price hikes after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Newsom said he is planning to submit a revised budget to the state legislature that would “put money back in Californians’ pockets to address rising gas prices,” but he did not immediately offer any details of how much a rebate would be or when he hopes it could hit bank accounts.
The Democratic-controlled state legislature will have to approve Newsom’s proposals both for a tax rebate and a pause to the annual increase to the state’s gas tax. The total amount of the rebate that Californians could receive would also have to be negotiated by Newsom and lawmakers, based in part on estimates of what the state’s surplus will be this year, which are likely to be revised.
In his address, Newsom tied his desire to provide relief from gas prices to the aggressive agenda that he has advanced in California to shift away from reliance on fossil fuels, pushing back on the argument from many Republicans for more domestic oil production.
“At a time when we’ve been heating up and burning up, one thing we cannot do is repeat the mistakes of the past by embracing polluters: drilling even more oil, which only leads to even more extreme weather, more extreme drought, more wildfire,” he said, alluding to the catastrophes that California has dealt with as a result of the climate crisis. “We need to be fighting polluters, not bolstering them. And in so doing, freeing us once and for all from the grasp of petro-dictators.”
The governor’s announcement was also an acknowledgment of the political peril that many of his fellow California Democrats are facing in November as they contend with voters who are angry about gas prices and inflation.
Criticizing GOP governors
Newsom, who has increasingly sought to raise his national profile, has been outspoken about his contempt for controversial maneuvers by Republican leaders around the country, a topic he broached Tuesday night.
Offering an implicit critique of Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, he criticized “powerful and loud voices” that are “stoking fear and seeking to divide us.” And he mocked “that version of education reform being promoted in some states where they’re banning books, where you can sue your history teacher for teaching history and where you can’t say the word ‘gay.'”
California would continue to move forward, Newsom said, by “embracing diversity” and “seeking common ground,” not by “exploiting division with performative politics.”
Newsom has argued that the bill, which opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, sends “a clear — and disgusting — message to kids across the state: You are not welcome here.”
This story has been updated with more details of the governor’s address.