Noreen Evans calls for tax on oil for education, parks

In a replay of earlier battles, state Sen. Noreen Evans is going after Big Oil in California in an attempt to raise money for higher education and state parks.

The Santa Rosa Democrat on Tuesday introduced legislation seeking a tax on oil extraction in California.

Evans said the tax would raise an estimated $2 billion annually, 93 percent of which she proposes to steer toward public colleges and universities and the rest to help shore up the state's beleaguered parks system.

"It's just common sense," Evans said Tuesday.

Evans failed in 2009 to get similar legislation passed. California voters also turned down Proposition 87 in 2006 that would have taxed oil extraction -- called a severance tax -- mainly for the purposes of funding alternative energy.

Evans said her chances are better with SB 241, known as The California Education and Resources Reinvestment Act, because Democrats now have a two-thirds majority in the Legislature and because the money would be devoted to education and parks, two causes the state's residents care passionately about.

"I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but it's the right thing to do," she said.

An oil industry representative, however, predicted that the effort would fail again.

"Once people come to understand the implications of increasing taxes on energy production, they do seem to reach the conclusion that it's bad policy for the state of California," said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association.

California, which Hull said produces 550,000 barrels of oil a day, is the only oil-producing state in the nation that does not levy a severance tax on the enterprise.

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