A California gas tax increase kicks in. How hard is it hitting you at the fuel pump?

The gas tax in California goes up again

Californians began paying more than 5 cents a gallon extra for gas on Monday as the state's gas tax increase took effect raising the total tax per gallon to 47.3 cents.
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Californians began paying more than 5 cents a gallon extra for gas on Monday as the state's gas tax increase took effect raising the total tax per gallon to 47.3 cents.

Gasoline taxes ticked up on Monday in California, but the 5.6-cents-per-gallon increase generally hasn’t translated to higher prices for drivers at gas pumps in the Valley – at least, not yet.

The average price for regular unleaded gasoline in Fresno on Monday morning was $3.74 per gallon, according to AAA Gas Prices. That was unchanged from Sunday before the higher excise tax rate kicked in. The data shows that the average is about two cents per gallon less than it was a week ago.

Statewide, the average was also mostly unchanged from Sunday to Monday, despite the tax increase. This spring, maintenance and a seasonal switch to California-specific summer blend fuel sent gas prices in the Valley and across the state lurching higher, from a statewide average of $3.31 in early March to $4.10 two months later.

In the Fresno market, prices peaked at $4.07 per gallon in early May, but have dropped back into the mid-$3.70s.

“The great thing for Fresno is that your prices may not immediately go up by that 5.6 cents,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. “Rarely do customers wake up and say, ‘Oh, look, prices are 5.6 cents higher today. There are so many things that go into it, and gas prices had already been falling.”

The nature of averages means different customers are going to see different things at different stations. “Averages are averages. Some stations may not have changed their prices right at midnight,” DeHaan said, “or there are stations where our members haven’t reported updated prices.” GasBuddy’s mobile app allows customers to report gasoline prices they observe in real time at gas stations nationwide.

“Another thing is, instead of jacking up prices, station owners may have enough margin to not have to go up all at once,” he added. “They might be saying, ‘I’ll let this take a bite out of what we’re making.’ So some stations are paying the higher tax on behalf of motorists.”

Peter Zamarripa of Fresno pumps gas at US Gas and Food on Clinton Avenue near Highway 99 in Fresno on Monday, July 1, 2019. The state gas tax went up 5 to 6 cents on Monday. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

The cheapest cash price for unleaded regular gasoline reported Monday morning by GasBuddy users in Fresno was $3.37 per gallon at several stations across the city, from a 76 station near Herndon Avenue and Highway 99 in northwest Fresno to a Fastrip convenience store at Hughes and Dakota avenues in west-central Fresno, to a FoodsCo station at First and Shields avenues in central Fresno and a Super 7 convenience store at Belmont and Maple avenues in the city’s southeast area.

The tax increase, which is intended to generate money for road and transit work, gives California the distinction of having the highest state gasoline tax rates in the nation. In addition to a state sales tax rate of 2.25 percent, there’s also a 6-cent per gallon sales tax and the just-increased excise tax rate of 47.3 cents per gallon. There’s also a federal excise tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.

Nationally, the average price of unleaded regular gasoline was $2.71 per gallon on Monday, up a nickel from a week earlier.

Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.