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Californians may pay nation's highest gas taxes

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm •  Published: March 1, 2013

"The Legislature mandated that we equalize the sales and excise taxes to avoid a net increase in taxes," equalization board Chairman Jerome E. Horton said in a board statement on Friday. "We could protest the legislation and not make the rate adjustment, however we would be violating law and arguably exposing taxpayers to even higher taxes in the future."

In making its decision, the board looks at previous revenues along with current and projected future consumption and gas prices.

While consumption is down, slightly lowering excise tax revenues, increased prices meant the state would have collected more sales tax under the old system.

Gasoline consumption has consistently fallen each fiscal year since 2005 and was 14.6 billion gallons in the 2012 fiscal year. The decrease has reduced tax revenues, according to equalization board figures.

At the same time, the overall price of gas has soared.

Average gas prices in California jumped nearly 60 percent per gallon in the past month, the Automobile Club of Southern California reported. The average price of regular on Friday was $4.235 per gallon.

The tax hike was approved 3-2 by equalization board members Jerome Horton, Betty Yee and John Chiang. George Runner and Michelle Steele voted against it.

"I cannot support a more than half a billion-dollar tax increase on struggling Californians who are already experiencing significant pain at the pump," Runner said in a statement.

Runner previously has proposed limiting gasoline sales and excise taxes, the Sacramento Bee reported ( ).