Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, January 19, 2024


Page 9


In My Opinion

Why Is the Price of Gas So High in California? Well…


By Kris Whitten


Depicted is a gas station in Bullhead City, Arizona.

Some of Dan Walters’ recent “Sacramento Reports” in this newspaper have discussed California’s current “boom and bust” economy; the seemingly sudden reversals from rags to riches, and back again. The state’s prosperity can also lead to its downfall, because continuing liquidity depends on the super-rich, who have gotten that way by taking advantage of the California’s infrastructure and markets, sticking around to pay their share of the cost of keeping our economy fluid. When someone like Elon Musk moves to Texas, a disproportionately large percentage of California’s projected income also moves with him. Hence the “surprise” budget deficits.

In this virtual age, one’s “workplace” is easy to change, but the tax consequences can also be the subject of endless litigation. See generally, Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt (2019) 139 S. Ct. 1485. And the “depressing” political efforts to alter the State’s taxing infrastructure proceed apace, as outlined in Walters’ Jan. 3 “Report.” In the meantime, we’re paying ever-increasing taxes that simultaneously result from, and continue to cause, the rising cost of living.

A majority of us apparently believe that it’s gotten too expensive to live in California, which has resulted in the state having three consecutive years of declining population. In a recent poll, nearly half reported struggling to save money or pay for unexpected expenses, and more than 25 percent reported having trouble making ends meet. But most “ordinary folk” can’t just pick up and move to a cheaper state.

We also read about California’s progressive culture and diversity being a “magnet” to keep people here, and government efforts to build more affordable housing and deal with homelessness, but what about the increasing number of people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves and their families unable to pay for the necessities of life? Are these circumstances shades of what brought us Proposition 13 in 1978?

Two recent road trips brought home to me the stark reality of the extraordinary cost-of-living gap between California and other states.

I grew up in a military family, moving often, and driving back and forth across the country in the 1950s and 1960s. We didn’t have an air-conditioned car, so we would stop at Needles, CA, a desert Oasis on “Route 66”; westbound to rest before crossing the desert in the very early morning, and eastbound avoiding the heat by crossing the Mojave in the dark, and then resting there.

Needles is on I-40 close to the Arizona border, and on our most recent trip two weeks ago, gas was selling there for over $6/gallon, while two miles away in Arizona a gallon cost $2.97.

I also discovered that the station I had filled up at last July was no longer selling gas. They referred me to another station that was, and when I filled up “Thirsty” (my name for the rented SUV) the station attendant seemed very pleased with my large purchase, commenting that most customers don’t fill up. Why would they when they can do so two miles away for half the price?

The devastation of the Needles economy since those days of old was shocking. The gas price disparity is only part of it, but it is a stark example of the dramatic effects our state government’s tax policy can have on local economies.


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