SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Most California households are reportedly receiving up to $1,050 from the government to help them put the nation’s most expensive gasoline in their cars, as part of a budget relief program record state operating bill that lawmakers must approve later this week.

The proposal would send money directly to taxpayers instead of suspending the state’s fuel tax, which accounts for 51.1 cents per gallon of the price at the pump and is expected to rise nearly another 3 cents on Friday.

While some other states have suspended their fuel taxes and Democratic President Joe Biden has called for the national gas tax to be suspended, Democrats who control the California government have refused to do the same because they said they did not trust big oil companies and refineries to pass the savings on to drivers.

Instead, California officials plan to send $9.5 billion to about 23 million people, which is about 10% of the state’s record $97 billion budget surplus. The money would go to people whether or not they own a car, but only couples who earn less than $500,000 a year and singles who earn less than $250,000 a year are eligible to get it.

People who buy 15 gallons (57 liters) of fuel twice a month would pay about $194 a year in California gasoline taxes. Meanwhile, the lowest amount a household would get under this plan would be $200 for a single person with no children who earns $250,000 or less per year. The maximum money a household would receive would be $1,050 for a married couple with children earning $150,000 or less per year.

“I think California families would rather see their savings in their pockets,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo. “The savings and fuel discount we currently offer is much better.”

The Newsom administration said it will take until October before taxpayers get the money, 10 months into a year of record gasoline prices. Republicans criticized the move, saying drivers could have saved money all along if the state had quickly suspended its fuel tax.

“Enough waiting, talking and investigating. People need relief now,” said Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher.

The proposal is the centerpiece of California’s $307.9 billion operating budget that lawmakers are expected to approve later this week. Despite dire initial projections, California’s revenues have soared throughout the pandemic, fueling record surpluses.

All that money has allowed lawmakers to dramatically expand a number of government programs. One of the most important will be to extend government-funded health care benefits to all low-income adults, regardless of immigration status.

Currently, people living in the country illegally are only eligible for California’s Medicaid program if they are 26 and under or 50 and over. The budget says that by 2024 everyone who meets the income requirements will be covered – at a cost to taxpayers of $2.6 billion a year.

“This fiscal investment reflects California’s values ​​of inclusion and equity and should be a model for the rest of the nation,” said Sarah Dar, director of health policy and public benefits at the California Immigrant Policy Center. .

The budget would leave $37.1 billion in state savings accounts to prepare for a future economic downturn. While California’s incomes have been strong, the Independent Office of the Legislative Analyst says the economy has shown signs of weakening as inflation remains high and home sales have slowed in part due to a rapid rise in mortgage rates.

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