HANFORD — Around lunchtime Thursday, cars began to pull into Buford Star Mart gas station and drivers began fueling up their cars. The only thing different about the normal, everyday scene was customers were paying 12 more cents to the gallon at the pump.
“A lot of us sometimes barely have enough money to put gas in our vehicles, and they’re just making it even more difficult,” said customer Andrew Nollan. “That 12 cents adds up every gallon.”
Senate Bill 1 was signed in April by Gov. Jerry Brown and increased the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and diesel tax by 20 cents per gallon starting Wednesday. The bill also increased vehicle license and registration fees.
Nollan said he believes it’s not fair to the state’s residents to pay even more money on top of the already high gas prices.
“It’s ridiculous,” Nollan said. “What is California’s actual agenda behind this?”
Most Republicans opposed the bill, including state Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford).
“I adamantly opposed SB 1 and its regressive tax hike on gasoline and diesel fuel,” Vidak said in a statement. “Small businesses, the struggling middle class, the working poor, the unemployed, seniors on fixed incomes, people living in disadvantaged communities or areas ravaged by recent fires, and struggling students are just some of those who will suffer under these tax hikes pushed by Brown and the majority of the Legislature.
On his website, Vidak told residents that as they begin to see gasoline and diesel costs skyrocket, they should remember to put the blame on Brown and the 81 legislators who voted to increase the gas tax.
The gas tax will also hit the farming community pretty hard, especially with diesel prices rising significantly.
Dusty Ference, executive director of the Kings County Farm Bureau, said many people in the farming and agriculture community were not supportive of the tax hike.
"It's definitely a hit to the industry," Ference said. "Most of our tractors are diesel, so it's one more expense to overcome."
The tax hike is supposed to provide $5.4 billion annually for road and bridge repairs, maintenance and rehabilitation; safety projects on local streets and roads; and expanded mass transit across the state.
The California State Department of Transportation said in a press release that revenue will be “split evenly between state and local agencies” and “effectively doubles transportation dollars for local cities and counties, and doubles the maintenance dollars for state highways.”
"SB 1 is a game-changing investment for not only the state highway system, but our local transportation partners benefit from significantly investing in their transportation infrastructure as well,” Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said in the released statement. “State and local projects are already being lined up to deliver real results for all users of California’s vast transportation system."
As a smog technician, Nollan said he sees plenty of vehicle registration forms that say the money is going toward road maintenance, but said there are a lot of roads that need work and he rarely sees any road repairs taking place.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Nollan said. “I don’t see freeways getting fixed any faster, or anything like that, so, where’s the money going?”
Rachel Denison, another customer pumping gas, said the new gas tax is a bummer, especially for hardworking people who need gas to go back and forth to work and are just trying to stay afloat on top of the other bills they have.
“It seems like everything in California is being taxed wherever you turn around,” Denison said. “It’s getting too high to live here.”
Denison said she hopes the money actually does go toward maintaining the roads like it’s supposed to.
“I don’t like it, but I guess if it has to be done, then it has to be done,” Denison said. “There’s really nothing we can do about it.”