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The Gas Tax Slams Farms & Small Business – Repeal It

I’m a farmer.

Joe Ferrari

Joe Ferrari

My dear consumer friends; I’m the warm face you are always excited to meet at your local farmer’s market booth as you fill your bag with the sustainably grown produce I offer you. I help ensure that your favorite brand of fruits and nuts is always stocked at the grocery store. Without my small farm in your community, your food would be produced from afar and it would not be as affordable, plentiful, safe, fresh, or tasty.

If you enjoy feeling connected to your food supply, always having that sense of security that can only come with knowing that I produced it locally with care, and you want to keep munching on fresh fruit and vegetables that you cannot obtain outside of California, I need your help.

One of our State’s new laws may prevent me from being there for you in the near future: Senate Bill 1 (“SB 1”)—known as the “gas tax.” Among other problems, it has jacked up the tax on gasoline by 12 cents a gallon and the taxes on diesel by 20 cents a gallon. Since farms need these fuels, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for my small business to afford to operate in California to serve you.

Most of us California farmers are small, having to drive long distances just to do our jobs, so this higher fuel tax punishes us. And it can’t be passed directly on to the grocery store or the agricultural products we farm, meaning that many like me will go away and you will have to pay more for food at the grocery store.

The cost of the tax increase for most Californians averages $700 a year, but for many rural citizens it comes to many thousands of dollars—enough to kill businesses like mine.

Combined with previous tax hikes, the new levies drive State fuel taxes close to $1 a gallon more than in other States.

Now, addressing the business community; I don’t understand why any member would favor keeping this unpopular, expensive law. On November 6, voters will decide via Proposition 6 whether to repeal SB 1, so it strikes me as odd when the Sacramento Bee reported that the California Chamber of Commerce (“CalChamber”) “joined the campaign against the repeal measure.” As a business advocate, how can CalChamber justify this position? Certainly, it should have a clue that laws like SB 1 are why California ranked the worst State for doing business in the 2018 Chief Executive magazine survey of 513 CEOs. One CEO told the magazine, “California has been running businesses out of the State for years, and in fact, their policies are getting worse.”

Addressing the voter; yes, our roads are in terrible shape. We farmers are most aware, since we often drive our products to market across many potholes. But the money already is there to fix them.

We taxpayers coughed up a $16 trillion surplus this year, which the legislature squandered. And the legislators cut Caltrans funding 18 percent the past decade.

72 percent of State vehicle taxes, including the cap-and-trade tax, go to projects other than roads and construction… not to mention the money hemorrhaging from the $77 billion high-speed rail boondogle!

I call on CalChamber and other big business groups to end their opposition to Prop. 6 and lock arms with small business in supporting the repeal of the SB 1 gas tax. The business you save may be your own.

And my consumer friends and fellow voters, please remember, I want to keep feeding you. Here’s how you can help: vote yes on Prop. 6!

Joe Ferrari farms walnuts and cherries in Linden, California and is a Certified Public Accountant. He serves on the Board of Directors of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau and sits on several policy committees at the California Farm Bureau.