Chris LeFall passes a gas station while driving for Uber Eats in Chula Vista on March 11, 2022.
Chula Vista resident Chris LeFall passes a gas station while driving for Uber Eats on March 11, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler for Voice of San Diego

Monday, June Cutter, a Republican running to unseat Assemblyman Brian Maienschein acted the way you might when a perfectly laid trap snatches its prey.  

California Assembly Republicans had pushed the body to vote on whether they could have a vote to suspend the state’s gas tax while prices at the pump reached new heights. Maienschein appeared to vote against the measure (and thus in support of keeping the tax in place) only to turn his vote into an abstention.  

Cutter recorded the vote live and tweeted it.  

Reached later, Maienschein sent a statement. He actually does support suspending the gas tax and referred to his previous position opposing an increase to the tax.  

“I voted against the gas tax. Naturally, I support its suspension as part of this year’s budget discussions,” he wrote. He did not explain why he abstained from the vote.  

The vote, pushed by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley left San Diego Democrats scrambling for a coherent response. The state adds a bit more than 50 cents to every gallon of gasoline sold in California. The money pays for roads and infrastructure and the state has already borrowed funds to build things with that money in mind.  

But the cost of gasoline has soared because of supply constraints, global unrest and increased demand. The pain everyday consumers face as a result has raised tensions across the region. Gov. Gavin Newsom felt it and acknowledged it last week in his State of the State speech.  

“In January we proposed to pause the gas tax increase. Now, it’s clear we must go further. That’s why — working with Legislative leadership — I’ll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians, to address rising gas prices,” he said.  

The push to suspend the gas tax immediately, however, was a move to do something more quickly and it put Assembly Democrats on their heels in a way few other state Republican maneuvers have in years.  

Progressives have lots of arguments in favor of the gas tax: Gas should be expensive because of how badly burning it impacts the environment. The money funds good construction jobs and valuable infrastructure.  

San Diego County supervisors, including three Democrats, voted Tuesday unanimously to ask the state to suspend the gas tax for one year (though the vote also included support for the governor’s as yet undetermined rebate plan). But a similar bipartisan ground wasn’t found in Sacramento. The San Diego delegation to Sacramento was not in the mood to entertain the proposal to suspend the gas tax and turned to a mix of vitriol and process complaints in response to the Republicans’ Legislative move.  

Assemblywoman Tasha Boernar-Horvath had the harshest comment. In a statement, she called it a “political stunt by a far-right Republican to exclude the public from the policy-making process.” 

She said she knew that gas prices were hurting Californians but blamed companies.  

“I understand the frustration felt at high gas prices – set by the same oil companies which made record profits in 2021 and are trying to make as much money as they can off the conflict in Ukraine,” she said.  

She was unwilling to pause the gas tax because the money was needed for infrastructure. The Republican bill would allow the state to backfill bond payments and other needs from the general fund.  

Assemblywoman Akilah Weber deferred to a process argument to explain why she didn’t support the move. The bill was brought forward, she said, “without reference to file” and had not been heard in any committees and she had not had the opportunity to read it.  

Nonetheless, she agrees the pain at the pump is real and hurting Californians.  

“I am eager and committed to finding ways to alleviate this pain and look forward to working with Governor Newsom to get cash back into your pockets,” she wrote.  

Assemblyman Chris Ward also shared the frustration about the fuel prices. But the Republican move wasn’t going to help, he wrote in a statement to Voice of San Diego.  

“Yesterday’s show by Republicans on the Assembly Floor was a smoke-and-mirrors tactic to stoke anger and I’m sure for some, that’s working,” he said. “Were a pre-existing gas tax suspended, our bond and financial mechanisms currently supporting road repair would default, and nothing would stop gas stations from increasing their prices again to levels consumers are begrudgingly willing to pay.” 

It’s unclear what form the governor and Legislature’s own relief package will take or when. Republicans say it’s at least two months off.  

State Senate President Toni Atkins, who represents San Diego, said it was on its way.  

“I am working with my colleagues in the legislature and the Governor’s office to bring forward relief that will return hundreds of dollars from the General Fund to California families. With equity in mind, this will provide much-needed financial help, especially for lower and middle-income families, while not impacting funding that is vital to our schools and infrastructure, or family-supporting construction jobs,” she said.  

Cutter was thrilled that the vote helped clarify Maienschein’s party alignment. Maienschein used to be a Republican before leaving the party two years ago and joining the Democrats. It helped him keep his spot in the Assembly.  

“The motion made yesterday would have given immediate relief to families,” she said. “We don’t know what a rebate will look like. The suspension of the gas tax would require no red tape or cost to administer but a rebate will mean the state picks and chooses beneficiaries, and it will take money to administer.” 

If Maienschein’s abstention was intended to keep him in line with Democrats while avoiding the fallout of the vote, it doesn’t seem to have worked.  

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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  1. The Dems will do anything to keep their bread and circuses platform alive, including keeping all taxes, not just the gas tax, as high as possible to add and keep as many of their core constituents – illegal aliens and what they label “the underserved” – on their dole and in their favor. Their canned responses to finding themselves hoisted by their own petard show just how shallow and self-serving,their real intentions are.

  2. The rebate is a band-aide for more incoming taxes. He’s willing for that because he’ll get it back in a week or two. It costs 200 per week personally. That is almost 1000 per month. That’s 12,000 per year. Sounds to me like he needs to provide raises to everyone in California. And that’s a lot more than some 400.00 rebates…
    Here’s more proof.
    Newsome has proven time and time again he could care less about Californians. His methods aren’t just and he doesn’t represent the people. Not even the ones who actually were stupid enough to vote for him. The way he behaves… He is a disgusting excuse for a human being…

  3. So, the gas tax serves some valuable purpose in thwarting motorists from using their cars via climate action and the environment. Somebody slipped this lady a Mickey. C’mon, I live on the North South new trolly line, and the stations look deserted. The adjacent freeway is bumper to bumper, however. As a Dem I’ll side GOP this time. Smiechowski the ignored Pole for SDCC D2.

  4. We should be working to Increase imports from, a. Venezauela b. Mexico c. Canada! There is NO reason for a shortage! Russia supplies very little to us. Continue developing electric autos & Hydrogen cars etc !

  5. This is Daniel Smiechowski a Democrat with a funny name not acceptable as a SDCC D2 candidate. I don’t care one iota what you perfect Americans think of me as a person and candidate.

    Why SANDAG Sold East County Down the River
    Last week the County’s governing board called SANDAG made up of prominent elected officials voted for a long-range transportation plan and in so doing gave East County residents the shaft. Along party lines, they voted to possibly place an absurd gas tax, increase bike lanes and of course their favorite pie in the sky being the belief that residents in this County are suddenly going to flood public transit like locusts in the Western Sahara and walk everywhere while ditching their cars.
    I listened to the entire meeting and heard the word equity used at least a million times. C’mon man! Sewn into all this hocus pocus are groups such as Circulate San Diego and a ton of bicycling groups pushing all this fairyland on a public driving more cars than Carters got liver pills.
    As a Democrat, I object which would explain being persona non grata in the County Democratic Party. I object because of SANDAG’S failure to account for human nature and 10,000 years of recorded history. Humanity will always take the easy way out unless social norms say otherwise. We are not France, China or Brazil. America was built on individual initiative. Plus, it’s just not feasible in Jacumba or Borrego Springs to catch a bus and or walk for ten miles for a gallon of milk.
    I spend at least six weeks of the year training for endurance in East County while I live in San Diego and Le Havre, France. We are not the French where this plan could work. There exists a crippling social stigma to public transportation in America. On one hand, we profess in equality while on the other hand, we view mass transit as beneath us. Pardon the pun but switching gears to scooters, when was the last time you rode a scooter to a doctor’s appointment or to the store? How about walking 5 miles in the rain for a loaf of bread. One soon sees the absurdity of all this mumbo jumbo.
    Here is my response to SANDAG’S board of director meeting last week. December 09, 2021
    Honorable Directors of SANDAG, this is San Diego resident and citizen Daniel “Danny” Smiechowski. I take a personal and passionate interest in alternative transportation and maintain grave concerns over the present framework of the City’s Climate Action Plan. Since the Summer of 1967, I have been walking, running and cycling local streets and unlike most residents, I have done this continuously unabated for over 50 years. I am a former Ironman and member of the coveted one-million-mile club. One million miles walking, running, cycling and swimming during my lifetime. At nearly 70 years old, I’m told by countless people that I have the best legs in California. But seriously, let the truth be told. Since the advent of the Trolley stop at Balboa Avenue several weeks ago, vehicular traffic in the area has gotten exponentially worse. This is because San Diegan’s will not ditch their cars in favor of public transportation. Mass transit unlike Milwaukee during the Sixties is beneath our fellow citizens excepting for mostly the downtrodden and a few lost tourists. Coincidentally, scooters have proven already to be a colossal failure. I say all this as being also a resident of Le Havre, France where the culture and society would gladly embrace your well-intentioned efforts but not in San Diego where Americans are too proud. Your reliance on getting residents to walk and take public transit is a foolish exercise in futility. It won’t work. This is not China, Germany or Brazil. Again, you are trying to change the stripes on a Zebra. We are too almighty and too proud in San Diego where luxury cars outnumber taco shops. Your group needs the advice of social psychologists and philosophers not politicians who cannot nor will not walk the walk, literally. As they say, “I’m from Missouri.” Daniel “Danny” Smiechowski

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