Actually, Newsom’s Gas Card Rebate Is a Great Idea

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Republicans are making a mistake criticizing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to give every car owner a $400 debit card to make up for the soaring cost of gas at the pump. It would be mailed out in July.

“July? Seriously?” charged Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City on March 23.

“Californians are struggling and Capitol Democrats are dragging their feet. How could it possibly take that long? Capitol Democrats are all talk and no action. Assembly Republicans have a plan to bring down gas prices by 50 cents a gallon immediately. We’ll be voting on it tomorrow. Democrats who think four months is too long to wait should support it.”

The Republican proposal is Assembly Bill 1638 by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin. It would suspend the 2017 gas tax increase of 50 cents a gallon for six months. The cost would be about $2.5 billion. As with Newsom’s proposal, the money would come from the massive, $45 billion surplus the state is expecting for fiscal year 2022-23, which begins on July 1.

Great idea. But the bill is going nowhere. That’s what happens when you’re a “superminority,” meaning having less than one third of the seats in both houses of the Legislature.

As Newsom is facing headwinds from the environmentalists in his party, who want to hamper carbon fuel-based vehicles as much as possible, a better strategy is to join with him. That also would give the GOP some publicity and show they’re team players.

According to Newsom’s statement, “The Governor’s proposal calls for $9 billion in tax refunds to Californians in the form of $400 direct payments per vehicle, capped at two vehicles.” Do the math: His $9 billion rebate to drivers is bigger than the GOP’s $2.5 billion.

I use about 12 gallons per week. The GOP plan would save me $6 a week. For 6 months, or 26 weeks, that would come to $156. Which is a lot less than Newsom’s $400.

For that, I can wait until July.

The limit of two debit cards per family, or $800, could spur a lot of families with three or more cars to shift ownership to other family members unless the legislation bars that. But these things always involve complications.

Newsom added the package includes $2 billion in “broader relief”:

  • $750 million for 3 million free rides on transit and rail agencies for three months;
  • Up to $600 million to pause a part of the sales tax rate on diesel for one year;
  • $523 million to pause the inflationary adjustment to gas and diesel excise tax rates. That’s an earlier Newsom proposal.

When you’re a superminority like Republicans, you need to know how to take advantage of the situation. Scott Adams says one of President Trump’s negotiating principles is, “When there’s money on the table, take it.” It’s a version of “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

How often is a Democrat going to offer a $9 billion tax cut? Well, one just did, so take it.

Another Trump tactic is to push a deal even further. How about, “That $400 per car from Newsom is a great start for a tax rebate, but $1,000 would be better.”

Republicans might take some judo classes, learning how to flip the opponent.

And read “Master of the Senate,” Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson’s tenure as the most powerful Senate majority leader ever. He was a disaster as president in the 1960s. But in the Senate in the 1950s, he knew how to turn a minority into a majority, and push through his legislation.

I admit I have selfish reasons for backing the Newsom proposal: I could use the $400 to help fill up my aging, creaking 2010 Camry.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at

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