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Raising gas tax is a bad idea
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As the target of the budget stalemate last summer, I saw and experienced a lot of crazy publicity stunts that not only tried to persuade my stance on the unbalanced budget, but tried to put me in a bad light with my constituency. Fortunately most of my constituents saw through the rhetoric of those outsiders from Sacramento and have supported my stance against such a foolish budget that does not make sense for California's current situation or for our future.

As the Legislature tries to make heads and tails of how to resolve our current budget crisis estimated at $16 billion, we need to find creative solutions and work in a bi-partisan fashion for the good of the people. However, in finding this solution the state must face the music that California indeed has a spending problem and that raising taxes alone is not the answer.

Recently, the Assembly defeated AB 9 xxx (Nunez) that would have imposed a 6% tax on oil production, a 2 percent tax on windfall profits and would have increased oil production costs in the state by $1.2 billion. Some of those in Sacramento thought it was fine to pass this tax onto the oil producers, thinking this was the save all measure to stave off education cuts. However, what they didn't take into account is the fact that this tax hurts hard working Californians where it counts - their pocketbooks. Not only would this tax be passed along in the form of higher gas prices, but this could also cause our state to become more dependent on foreign countries for our supply of crude oil. Neither of these outcomes helps our economy. It simply adds another financial burden to Californians who are struggling with their own household budgets to buy groceries and make their monthly house and car payments.

Ironically less than two years ago, the voters defeated Proposition 87 on the November 2006 ballot. This initiative was, you guessed it, a similar proposal to raise gas taxes.

Unfortunately, AB 9 xxx is not going to be the end of this type of legislative foolishness this year. This proposed tax is only the beginning of the political posturing. The Assembly Speaker knew full well he wasn't even close to having the 54 votes necessary to pass a gas tax, yet he went ahead anyway. This is what is called a political drill - the staging of a vote to simply get press. We expect many other new tax measures to be introduced. I, however, am committed to work hard to find a meaningful solution to these continued budgeting problems. I believe that it will take a combination of new revenues (no, not taxes) and reduced spending that puts our budget in balance.

The Legislature must get back to prioritizing our state's funding. There are many items that we currently provide financial support for that we should carefully review. California should focus most of its budget on our two core priorities - education and public safety. I voted no in February on the mid-year cuts to education and healthcare. I will continue to advocate on behalf of our children, our teachers and to keep our communities safe. They should not have to pay for bad budgeting decisions made by Legislative Leaders during previous budgets.

The state must learn to live within its means and reduce its spending. Californians deserve better than political posturing. They deserve a balanced budget that focuses on today's students and tomorrow's future.

(Jeff Denham represents the 12th Senate District, which is located squarely in the Central Valley. The counties of Stanislaus, Merced, Madera and San Benito comprise 80 percent of the district.)