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Billionaire to push California lawmakers for oil tax

  • FILE -- In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 file photo, businessman Tom Steyer speaks during a meeting to announce the launch of a group called Virginians for Clean Government at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist, says he will launch a campaign next year urging California lawmakers to approve taxes on companies that extract oil in the state. The major Democratic donor said Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 that he thinks it is ridiculous that California is the only oil-producing state that does not levy such a fee, which could generate billions of dollars a year. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

SACRAMENTO— Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said Monday that he will launch a campaign next year urging California lawmakers to approve taxes on companies that extract oil in the state.

Steyer, a major Democratic donor who also bankrolled last year's Proposition 39 campaign, said he thinks is it ridiculous that California is the only oil-producing state that does not levy such a fee on oil pumped from private land, which could generate billions of dollars a year for the state budget.

Proposals for an oil tax have stalled repeatedly amid pressure from oil companies, which are major donors to lawmakers' campaigns. But Steyer said he believes the current Legislature is more progressive and collaborative than in the past.

"I don't understand why the politics are hard here," he said in a telephone interview. "Who is going to stand up in the town square and say that we shouldn't have a tax on this?"

Tupper Hall, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents oil companies, said Steyer is wrong to compare California with other states that have such a tax. He said oil companies generate a lot of revenue through other fees, including $500 million a year in state royalties and billions of dollars annually in royalties paid to private landowners for oil extracted on their property.


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