CALIFORNIA — California drivers are due to pay 8 percent higher gas taxes in July, and a partial exemption for diesel is set to expire in August, fanning concerns that prices at the pump could surge as high as $7 this summer as companies switch to the pricier seasonal blend.

Late last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom also outlined a proposal to create financial penalties for “blatant price-gouging” when oil producers exceed certain profit margins.

Republican leaders this week renewed their call for Newsom to take action to address potential price surges before they hit this summer.

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“As the saying goes, ‘If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck,” said state Sen. Brian Jones, the Senate Minority Leader. “As Governor Newsom attempts to hide his efforts behind clever words, Californians will see [this] for what it really is — a gas tax increase amid record-high inflation and an economic downturn.”

According to data from AAA, California’s average gas price Friday was $4.87. While down almost a full dollar from the same time last year, that figure outpaces the national average by about $1.30. California’s current gas tax ranks near the top among states, at 54 cents per gallon, trailing only Pennsylvania.

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At the end of December, GasBuddy published its 2023 fuel outlook, expecting the national average would continue to decline this year — with a few big exceptions. While the firm estimated most major cities may hit $4 per gallon in the summer, it warned places like San Francisco and Los Angeles could see prices soar toward $7, “if refineries struggle under mandates of unique formulations of gasoline.”

This week Jones resurfaced two of his Senate proposals, which seek to suspend California’s tax increase and cut gas prices by up to $1 per gallon. In a letter signed last month by a group of senators and assemblymembers, members of the Republican Caucus called on Newsom to scrap the proposed tax hike, extend the diesel exemption an extra year, and delay moving to the summer gasoline blend to reduce impacts on prices.

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