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What you need to know about getting Newsom’s $400 gas rebate for California drivers

People fill their cars at a gas station.
Drivers line up for discounted gas prices at Costco earlier this week.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday outlined an $11-billion proposal designed to offset rising gas prices.

Gas prices in California have spiked in recent months, with the average gallon topping $6 in Los Angeles.

Here is a snapshot of the plan and the politics from The Times’ coverage:

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Newsom’s $11-billion proposal is designed to offset the rising prices consumers are paying at the pump and also includes savings for those who rely on public transportation.

Newsom’s plan

  • $400 to Californians for each vehicle registered in their name.
  • The current plan would allocate the money through a debit card to all vehicle registrants, including motorcycle and electric vehicle owners, regardless of income, as early as this summer.
  • Payments would be capped at $800 for anyone with more than one vehicle registered under their name, though households with multiple vehicles registered to different family members could receive far more than that amount.

That question is at the center of ongoing discussions inside the state Capitol as California grapples with a surge in gasoline costs and is projected to have a record-high budget and surplus.

  • Californians who don’t own a registered vehicle would not receive a refund, although $750 million in grants would go to transit and rail agencies to offer free or substantially reduced fare.
  • Newsom’s proposal is expected to cost the most of several proposals introduced in the state Legislature. His $11-billion plan includes $9 billion in tax refunds to drivers, $750 million for public transit grants, $600 million to pause the sales tax on diesel for one year and $523 million to pause inflation increases to gas and diesel excise taxes.

While the average price of gas nationwide peaked on March 11, L.A. County prices have continued to rise.

What’s next

  • The governor’s plan would be subject to approval by the state Legislature and could set him up for a battle with leaders of the Senate and Assembly, who introduced their own proposal last week to provide financial relief from the increasing costs of all goods with more money for families. The lawmakers’ plan centers on $200 rebates for each taxpayer and dependent, and excludes the top 10% of earners in the state. Their proposal gives money to eligible Californians whether or not they own a vehicle.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) would limit eligibility for the refunds to joint filers with income of up to $250,000.

  • Questions and concerns are already being raised about Newsom’s plan. Environmentalists have argued that connecting refunds to vehicle ownership conflicts with the state’s effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and remove cars from the road. The decision to exclude Californians who don’t own a car — and are also more likely to live in poverty than vehicle owners —stunned some advocates for low-income families. Though some households could still save hundreds of dollars on public transit costs, the proposal could disproportionately benefit those with the financial means to own a car or multiple cars.

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