Double your donation today

Donations are doubled now through Dec. 31. Support your nonprofit and nonpartisan state news.

Double your donation today

Support your nonprofit state news.

Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven October 7, 2022
Presented by Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Californians Against Higher Taxes, Save our Capitol and Sutter Health

Will Californians get even more gas rebates?

As California gas prices approach record highs — though costs could soon drop by as much as $1 per gallon — there’s “9.5 billion reasons I think people should be appreciative that the state’s recognizing the stress and strain that families are going through,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The governor’s comments — made during a San Francisco press conference at which he renewed a climate partnership with the leaders of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia — refer to the $9.5 billion worth of rebates that California is set to begin sending today to millions of residents to help cover the rising cost of living.

But it could take a while for the payments — which range from $200 to $1,050 — to actually reach Californians. According to Newsom’s office, around 8 million direct deposits will start arriving in bank accounts between today and Nov. 14, while an estimated 10 million debit cards will be delivered in the mail between Oct. 25 and Jan. 15.

Meanwhile, Newsom — who’s seeking a second term as governor in the Nov. 8 general election — is reiterating his call for state lawmakers to enact a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies and send the excess money back to Californians in the form of rebates.

  • In a Thursday fundraising email, Newsom’s reelection campaign urged Californians to sign a petition in support of his windfall tax proposal: “I’m just not going to stand by while millions of people are getting ripped off. But it will have to pass the legislature to happen, and I want them to know you’re with me.”

But, given that the state Legislature isn’t set to return to Sacramento until January, any further relief — if approved by lawmakers — is likely to be quite a ways off.

And Newsom declined to specify Thursday if he’s planning on calling a special legislative session, which would allow for lawmakers to consider his proposal sooner.

  • Newsom: “We’re making that determination in real time, and I’ll let you know when it’s made. … I’m quite confident we can achieve the result intended.”
  • Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin wrote in a blog post: “If Newsom does re-convene the Legislature, he’ll be sending the (Democratic) Supermajority into a trap. I’ll use the opportunity to force a new vote on suspending the gas tax, and we’ll see if they’re willing to oppose it again as ballots land in mailboxes.”

Today, Assembly Republicans urged Newsom to reject a special session and instead immediately suspend the state gas tax and do a full audit of gas tax spending.

Any further move is likely to escalate the Newsom administration’s ongoing battle with the oil and gas industry, which doesn’t seem to have taken kindly to the governor dropping terms such as “petro-dictators” and “big polluters,” or to him accusing oil companies of “laughing all the way to the bank while making the planet uninhabitable for future generations.”

In a response posted Thursday to the California Energy Commission’s letter last week asking five oil refinery executives to explain the dramatic uptick in prices at the pump, Paul Davis, senior vice president of PBF Energy Western Region, suggested the state’s own policies were to blame. (Newsom’s office retorted that some executives were “evasive,” while “most didn’t respond at all.”)

  • Davis wrote: “The laws and policies being implemented to decrease domestic crude oil production within the State are adversely affecting refining operations within the State. … It must be recognized that, since 1980, approximately one million barrels per day of crude oil refining capacity has been permanently shut down in California.”
  • He added: “The ability to import gasoline into California is limited as there are only a few refineries outside of California that manufacture the specific fuel blends mandated by the State’s regulations. With a ~120,000 barrels per day refinery scheduled to be shut down in the East Bay in 2023, the State’s gasoline supply and demand profile will be further challenged.”

But the energy commission has thus far seemed skeptical of the oil industry’s arguments. “All options are on the table to ensure Californians aren’t paying higher gas costs at the whims of the oil industry,” chairperson David Hochschild said in a Wednesday statement.

A message from our sponsor

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 10,437,463 confirmed cases and 95,414 deaths, according to state data now updated just once a week on Thursdays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 81,777,386 vaccine doses, and 72.2% of eligible Californians have received their primary vaccine series.

A message from our Sponsor

1 Child care bills to increase for low-income families

Micaela Mota poses for a portrait with her son Madison, 4, outside their home in Richmond on Sept. 26, 2022. Photo by Marissa Leshnov for CalMatters

“The governor could have been more graceful in what he could provide for us.”

That was Richmond mother Micaela Mota’s response to Newsom last month vetoing a bill that would have made permanent a pandemic-era program to waive fees for low-income California families who receive subsidized child care. Although child care in California is free for families earning below 40% of the state median income — which was about $79,000 in 2020 dollars — those earning between 40% and 85% of that amount must pay child care fees on a sliding scale that could be as much as 10% of their household income, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.

The waiver has saved Mota $277 per month, helping her to pay student loans and PG&E bills and enroll her son in baseball and swim lessons. But, with the current waiver program set to expire in June 2023, Mota is bracing for her child care expenses to shoot back up.

In vetoing the bill — which passed without a single dissenting vote in the Legislature and faced no formal opposition — Newsom cited ongoing costs that he said could strain the state budget amid lower-than-expected revenues and gloomy economic forecasts. Child care and family advocates weren’t impressed.

  • Mary Ignatius, a statewide organizer at Parent Voices: “Real cost pressures are what families are facing every single day. Scraping together money for these fees instead of spending it on food, on housing, on activities for their children, for bills, for paying down debt. That’s financial pressure. What the state is experiencing pales in comparison.”

2 State withdraws plan to limit phone discounts

The California Public Utilities Commission offices at the Edmund G. Pat Brown building in San Francisco on Jan. 28, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

Meanwhile, low-income Californians bracing for higher internet and phone bills seem to have secured at least a temporary reprieve: The California Public Utilities Commission was set to vote Thursday on a rule that would have limited how low-income residents could use California LifeLine subsidies for phone and internet services, but officials at the last minute pulled the item from the agenda.

No written explanation was offered, and a commission spokesperson didn’t return requests for comment, CalMatters’ Lil Kalish reports. But the sudden withdrawal comes after months of objections and mounting pressure from state lawmakers, providers and residents, who argued the “decision would make critically needed broadband services for potentially millions of low-income Californians harder to afford at a time when they are struggling from the harmful impacts of the pandemic and record inflation,” as Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, a Buena Park Democrat, put it in an August letter.

Still, advocates warn that it’s too soon to declare victory. It’s unclear how the commission — which is set to meet again on Oct. 20 — plans to proceed.

  • Ashley Salas, an attorney for the consumer advocacy group The Utility Reform Network: “I wouldn’t put too much significance into it.”

3 Central California chilled by string of crimes

Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden, center, flanked by Mayor Kevin Lincoln, left, and City Manager Harry Black, holds a press conference about the investigation into a suspected serial killer in Stockton on Oct. 4, 2022. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

Amid ongoing concerns over crime in California — the state’s violent crime rate increased 6% in 2021, with homicides ticking up 7.7%, according to a Public Policy Institute of California fact sheet published Thursday — two particularly chilling cases have stricken the state and nation.

  • A possible Stockton serial killer: Federal law enforcement — including members of the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — have joined forces with local officers to investigate a string of six killings and one nonfatal shooting they say appear to be the work of one “mission-oriented” person. All of the deceased victims are men, one of whom was shot in Oakland in April 2021. A homeless woman was wounded in Stockton days later. The five remaining killings took place in Stockton between July 8 and Sept. 27 within a radius of a few square miles, according to police. Of the deceased victims, four were homeless, at least five were Latino and all were shot at night or shortly before dawn while alone. Authorities are offering a $125,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
  • Merced murders: Authorities said Thursday that the suspected killer and kidnapper of a Sikh immigrant family — an eight-month-old baby, her parents and uncle — is a disgruntled former employee who had been fired after working for the family’s trucking business. The suspect, 48-year-old Jesus Salgado, was taken into custody after attempting to commit suicide, though police are still looking for a possible accomplice. Salgado had previously served eight years in state prison for first-degree armed robbery, attempted false imprisonment and other offenses, and was discharged from parole in 2018, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said “there’s no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident” and that he hopes the district attorney seeks the death penalty.
A message from our Sponsor
A message from our Sponsor

Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

Gimme Shelter podcast: How California’s new parking law could lower housing costs. // CalMatters

How we can improve the way laws are made in California. // Capitol Weekly

These 500 San Franciscans are making the biggest donations for the 2022 November election. // San Francisco Chronicle

They grew up in family homes in Oakland. Now they can’t afford their own. // Oaklandside

Skid Row Nation: How L.A.’s homelessness crisis response spread across the country. // Los Angeles Magazine

Oakland parents want a seat at the table in district negotiations with teachers union. // KQED

How California’s teacher shortage is impacting special education. // ABC 10

Voters support Newsom’s mental health plan and back mandatory kindergarten, poll shows. // Los Angeles Times

S.F. drug rehabs threaten closure, beg city for a bailout. // San Francisco Standard

Twelve Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies who failed psychological exams return to full duty. // San Francisco Chronicle

State to review psych exams of more than 500 SFPD officers following murder charges against Alameda deputy. // San Francisco Standard

San Mateo-based Roblox and Discord sued over girl’s sexual, financial exploitation. // Mercury News

Former Uber security chief guilty of data breach coverup. // Associated Press

Doctors uneasy about California law aimed at COVID misinformation. // Los Angeles Times

Solar and wind farms can hurt the environment. A new study offers solutions. // Los Angeles Times

San Diego’s avocado production plummets. Growers cite drought, heat waves. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Is the French Laundry in Napa Valley still worth the splurge? // San Francisco Chronicle

See you next week

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.

Follow CalMatters on Facebook and Twitter.

CalMatters is now available in Spanish on Twitter, Facebook and RSS.