Struggling to make California affordable

A housing tract in San Jose, Calif. (Photo: PBK-PG, via Shutterstock)

When California residents in the Bay Area making over $100,000 per year are considered “low income” and thereby eligible for government subsidies for housing, something is seriously wrong.  The San Jose Mercury News recently pointed out how this exacerbates the massive teacher shortages in the area.  Other reports show that a majority of Bay Area young professionals do not see themselves staying in the area because the cost of living is unsurmountable. Not a day goes by where I do not hear about the struggles in the Central Valley of being able to afford living and working in California.

The issue of affordability is hitting critical mass in regions throughout the state.  However, Sacramento seems completely disconnected from this reality.  In fact, Sacramento has the entire state on the fast lane towards making California even more unaffordable.

Not only are taxes and fees continuing to pile on at break-neck pace, but there is very little desire to curtail the significant cost impact of regulations enacted by state agencies.

By now, people know that Sacramento Democrats passed the largest gas tax in state history—a 12 cent increase to the gas tax, 20 cent increase to the diesel tax, and up to $175 increase in the vehicle license fee.  Now that the gas tax has passed, the legislature is moving on to extend an environmental program called cap-and-trade, which the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office reported can impose an additional 73 cent increase per gallon of gasoline.

But that is just the tip of the spear.  The California Taxpayers Association recently reported that California lawmakers have introduced $155 billion in higher taxes and fees—likely one of the highest ever identified by the Association. Working class and lower income families are often hit hardest by these proposals because they drive up the costs of basic needs, such as housing, driving, and groceries.

Sacramento appears to be tone deaf to the needs of ordinary Californians. Not only are taxes and fees continuing to pile on at break-neck pace, but there is very little desire to curtail the significant cost impact of regulations enacted by state agencies. Vital industries in the Central Valley, which feed and power the entire state, are disproportionately suffering at the hands of unelected bureaucrats who continue to impose more costly regulations that further squeeze their ability to operate in California.

Furthermore, the current California economy has not worked for families in the Central Valley.  The industries and sectors they depend on for their livelihood is taking the brunt of policies and regulations coming out of Sacramento. It has been clear that the Valley’s priorities and needs are continuing to be ignored as Sacramento layers on more taxes, fees, and regulatory cost burdens in favor of the agendas and special interests of coastal and urban communities.

In my capacity as the Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee, I fought the gas tax tooth and nail and also pushed common sense legislation requiring an important oversight committee over environmental regulations to consider basic economic costs of regulations ushered by the California Air Resources Board, which has been given blank check authority by the Legislature to enact regulations to meet a lofty greenhouse gas emission reduction target by 2030. This bill, AB 1301, was rejected out of hand in the first policy committee hearing.

Sacramento is sending the wrong message to California families struggling to work and live here.  They expect their elected representatives to consider the real world impact of their policies.  We cannot continue to squeeze Californians as policies passed in Sacramento increase the cost of rent, food, electricity, gasoline and other basic necessities that affect our quality of life. Under the status quo, affording to live and work in California will continue to be further out of reach for more and more residents.

As we enter a period on the legislative calendar where Sacramento lawmakers will be voting on hundreds of policy proposals, we must first and foremost evaluate these bills through the lens of affordability.  We must change courses quickly in order to ensure that all Californians today and tomorrow can thrive in our state.

Ed’s Note: Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Kern County, is the vice chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee and serves as the Chief Republican Whip.

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