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California likely won't consider a proposed oil tax until January

The state Capitol in Sacramento on Nov. 17, 2022.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
The state Capitol in Sacramento on Nov. 17, 2022.

When might Californians get more details about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to enact a windfall profits tax on oil companies, which newly elected state lawmakers are set to consider in a special legislative session beginning on Dec. 5?

The specifics of the proposal aren’t likely to surface until the start of the special session, the same day legislators will be sworn into office, Newsom’s office told CalMatters political reporter Alexei Koseff and me on Monday.

And lawmakers don’t expect to take substantive action on the issue until January, when the next legislative session starts in earnest.

  • The office of Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, said in a statement: “The Dec. 5 session will be focused on swearing in of new members and organizational matters, and may include taking steps to establish and organize the special session. We anticipate working with the Governor and his team on the special session/windfall penalty and rebate issue once we convene in January.”
  • Katie Talbot, a spokesperson for Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood, told Alexei that although the special session will be gaveled in on Dec. 5, meetings aren’t expected to begin until January.

Newsom has proposed returning revenue from the new tax to Californians in the form of rebates — potentially similar to those the state is currently sending to millions of residents — but the special session timeline suggests it could be a while before checks start landing in residents’ mailboxes, if they land at all.

Indeed, approving a new tax could be a politically perilous move for newly elected lawmakers facing their first vote — and could be unpopular amid concerns of an impending recession and California’s projected $25 billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year. Lawmakers are also expected to introduce their own ideas during the special session.

Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission is slated to hold a meeting on Nov. 29 with oil industry executives and experts to seek more information about gas price spikes, refinery disruptions and record industry profits. Regulators are also set to discuss strategies to “insulate consumers from price shocks” ahead of the state’s 2035 ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars.

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.