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California Gas Tax Increase Likely As State Leaders Still Debate How To Relieve Drivers

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Get ready to pay even more for gas this summer. California lawmakers are on track to miss a deadline Sunday to halt the next increase on the gas tax which starts July 1.

The average price for regular is around $5.71 in California and $5.56 in Sacramento, according to AAA.

Prices went down slightly compared to a month ago, but most drivers will say that's not low enough.

As the clock ticks, fuel prices soar.

The governor's office acknowledges it doesn't appear lawmakers will stop the gas tax increase of $0.03 in time as originally proposed in January. Alex Stack, a spokesperson for the governor's office, said in a statement:

"It is clear now that the Legislature will not act in time to provide that immediate, limited relief, but we look forward to working with lawmakers on the Governor's proposal for direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices. Helping offset the impact of inflation on California residents remains a top priority for the Governor, and his revised budget will include proposals to help Californians keep pace with rising costs. The sooner we can move this package through the legislative process, the sooner we can deliver needed relief to Californians."

Even if the tax increase is halted, gas experts say you won't notice much difference at the pump. However, Republican lawmakers pushed for a temporary suspension of the entire gas tax. It's an idea seen in states like Georgia, Maryland, New York and Connecticut.

Though, with rising living expenses and inflation, some say higher gases aren't the only problems facing Californians.

"The alternative to reducing the gas tax is targeting lower-income households and giving them direct support," said Severin Borenstein of UC Berkeley, an energy expert.

There have been talks of giving money directly to the people, but state leaders are divided on the idea. The governor wants to give it to drivers.

Additionally, some lawmakers want to base the money on income while others push to give relief to all taxpayers.

Even if legislators finally agree on relief, it'll have to be included in the revised budget proposal.

CBS13's Political Analyst Gary Dietrich says it won't be immediate.

"Not only do you have to have that passed and signed by the governor, then you have to put a program in place," he said.

There's another option on the table gaining bi-partisan support. It would drop the entire gas tax per each gallon for a year while demanding gas stations pass along 100% of the tax savings to drivers. Further details, including enforcement, are expected to be released in the coming days.

In the meantime, drivers are caught between the pump and State Capitol.

"You just have to cut where you can," said Marshall Toney of Sacramento.

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