Santa Barbara Assemblymember Pedro Nava — now running for Attorney General — went on the offensive on behalf of a new tax he proposes for California oil companies. Holding a press conference outside the state capitol with a group of unions representing teachers, nurses, and public employees, Nava charged that oil companies in California are getting a “free ride” by paying only one-third the taxes per barrel that they’re charged in Texas. Nava is proposing taxing the oil companies 10 percent of the gross value of each barrel produced in California. He estimated that such a tax — which would require a two-thirds majority vote to pass — would raise $1.5 billion. Previous efforts to pass such a tax have been effectively stymied in the Legislature.
With state revenue so chronically bleak — education funding alone is looking at cuts of $18 billion — Nava argued that California oil producers need to start paying “their fair share.” County Supervisor Joni Gray and Carpinteria City Councilmember Joe Armendariz blasted Nava’s suggestion, however, arguing it would drive the price of gas up and hurt small businesses that currently serve the oil industry. Gray’s father started one such business, and Armendariz is the paid director of the Santa Barbara Industrial Association, which represents, among others, the interests of South Coast oil and gas producers. Armendariz argued that what California lacks in oil taxes, it compensates for with high corporate taxes, and that such a tax would discourage new exploration and development. While Nava is regarded as a dark horse in the race for Attorney General — trailing behind better-known, better-financed Democrats who represent far larger voting bases — he’s hoping his anti-oil posture will play well with environmentally minded voters.