By Nathalie Voit
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) proposed an $11 billion relief package for Californians as gas prices continue to wreak havoc on millions of ordinary Americans.
“We’re taking immediate action to get money directly into the pockets of Californians who are facing higher gas prices as a direct result of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement released on March 23.
In addition to protecting Californians from “volatile gas prices,” the governor also said the package is meant to accelerate clean transportation initiatives.
According to the press release, the governor’s proposal calls for $9 billion in tax refunds to the state’s residents in the form of $400 direct payments per vehicle, capped at two vehicles. The package will also set aside $2 billion in broader relief aid, including $750 million in incentive grants to transit and rail agencies so Californians can enjoy free public transportation for three months.
About $500 million will be invested in active transportation programs that promote biking and walking throughout the state. The governor said that another $1.75 billion would be used for electric vehicle incentives and the development of EV charging infrastructure.
The tax refund will take the form of $400 debit cards for registered vehicle owners, and individuals will be eligible to receive up to two payments. Eligibility will be based on vehicle registration, not tax records. Additionally, there is no income tax on the proposal to include “all Californians who are facing higher prices due to the cost of oil,” Newsom’s office said.
Once the bill is approved, Californians could see the first payments coming in July. According to the release, the average Californian driver spends around $300 in gasoline excise tax each year.
The news comes as a host of factors, including soaring oil prices, threaten to send the country into a recession. On March 24, U.S. benchmark WTI Crude reached a day high of $116.64 a barrel to settle at about $112 as of Thursday noon. Global oil benchmark Brent Crude soared to $123.74 a barrel to come down to about $119 as of 12:00 p.m. ET.