Bills that would have ended the last state-level bans on adults pumping their own gas in Oregon and New Jersey both flamed out this year. A new study purports to show how much the failure of reform is costing drivers.
In March, the Oregon Legislature adjourned without passing a bill allowing gas stations all over the Beaver State to make some of their pumps self-service. Self-service pumps are currently only allowed in smaller rural counties.
Over in New Jersey, another bill similarly allowing gas stations to have some self-service pumps stalled after legislative leaders came out against it in March, reports NJ.com.
By not wanting to take on the political and regulatory costs of reform, politicians from both states are forcing the costs of higher gas prices onto motorists. That’s according to a new study from Clemson University’s Vitor Melo which finds that bans on self-service gas stations reduce supply and drive up prices.
In 2018, Oregon implemented a slight reform of its full-service mandate by allowing gas stations in counties of 40,000 or fewer people to have self-service pumps. Melo’s study used daily gas prices for all gas stations in the state reported to the website Gas Buddy between 2016 and 2019 to tease out what impact the repeal of self-service had on gas prices.
After controlling for counties’ levels of unemployment, poverty, and median income, Melo finds that allowing self-service saw gas prices drop in the affected counties by 4.4 cents per gallon. The price decline nets out to $90 a year for a household with three drivers.
On Thursday, the California legislature unanimously passed a budget trailer bill that will create the state’s first guaranteed income pilot program.
Under the lawmakers’ plan, the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) will get $35 million to dole out in grants to cities and counties that will then set up local basic income schemes. Grants will be prioritized for programs focusing on “pregnant individuals” and young adults 21 or older who’ve aged out of extended foster care programs.
State Sen. Dave Cortese (D–San Jose) said in a press release Thursday that participants of these pilot programs could end up receiving monthly payments of as much as $1,000 each.
Indeed, an analysis from the National Taxpayers Union’s Andrew Lautz has found that when accounting for states’ rainy day funds and steady revenues, only about $6 to $16 billion (not the proposed $195 billion) would be needed to make those governments whole.
Lautz also argues it’s inappropriate to divvy up money to states based only on their number of unemployed residents, given that the jobless are already receiving targeted benefits and that those benefits are themselves helping to prop up states’ tax revenues.
“Individuals who want a job and don’t have one are certainly struggling right now, but the [$900 billion] December bill and the proposed COVID-19 relief package support them with a $300 or $400 per week boost to their regular unemployment benefits,” writes Lautz. “The $600-per-week benefit from the CARES Act helped prevent major state revenue dropoffs in part because it allowed unemployed people to continue spending at rates similar to before they lost their jobs.”
Sens. Blumenthal, Bob Casey (D–Penn.), and Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) introduced the STURDY Act last Thursday. The legislation would require the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to develop more rigorous standards for dressers and other free-standing “clothing storage units” to prevent them from tipping over.
Deaths from falling furniture have attracted increased attention recently. According to the CPSC, which has released a series of reports on these incidents, 571 people, including 451 children, have died in the last 20 years from accidents involving unstable TVs, furniture, and appliances.
Most of these fatalities involved either falling TVs or falling furniture. Incidents involving only a tipped-over dresser or bureau, the subject of the STURDY Act, have produced 115 deaths in two decades.