Fact check: Did this Republican candidate for Congress vote to raise California’s gas tax?

Claim: San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti voted to raise health care costs, prescription drug prices and the gas tax, according to an advertisement paid for by opponent Rep. Josh Harder’s campaign.

Rating: Out of context. The votes in the advertisement and corresponding website are fee revisions for San Joaquin General Hospital Services in 2018 and 2020. Patti and other supervisors sent a letter of support for the gas tax bill in 2017.

The ad compares Patti, a Republican, to Harder, a Democrat. Harder, D-Tracy, and Patti are running for Congress in the 9th Congressional District. The pieces about Harder fighting the gas tax and working to reduce prescription drug prices and health care costs are accurate.

Gas tax

In 2017, Patti was one of the three members on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors who voted to sign a letter of support for California’s gas tax bill, Senate Bill 1 and Assembly Bill 1. Many local counties and boards also sent letters of support for the Road Repair Accountability Act of 2017.

Tom Patti, Republican candidate for California’s 9th Congressional District.
Tom Patti, Republican candidate for California’s 9th Congressional District.

Later that year, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, which raised California’s gas tax for the first time in 23 years. It went up 12 cents per gallon, a 40% increase. Funds go toward repairing California’s worn-down roads and bridges.

Voters upheld the gas tax through a ballot initiative in 2018.

Each July, the tax increases depending on the California Consumer Price Index. It is currently 53.9 cents per gallon.

California’s unique combination of gax tax and emissions standards cause it to have much higher prices than other areas of the country. As gas prices soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising inflation, California Democrats decided to send direct payments to families instead of cap or suspend the tax.

“I have never voted to raise the gas tax,” Patti said in response to the ad via email. “In fact, it was Harder’s own Democratic party in Sacramento that voted to raise the gas tax which was upheld by California voters in 2018.”

Harder vocally opposed California’s gas tax raise when running for Congress in 2018. He joined House of Representatives colleagues in introducing legislation to suspend the federal gas tax this year and asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to do the same in California.

One of Patti’s campaign goals is to allow more domestic oil production to lower the cost of gas, he told The Bee in a previous interview.

Health care and prescription drugs

The ad references how Patti supported measures in 2018 and 2020 to allow fee increases for services through San Joaquin General Hospital.

This included a 3% increase for the pharmacy in 2018 and a 5% increase on room rates in 2020, among other changes. The board members approved fee revisions these years based on requests from the hospital.

Patti, in response to the ad, wrote in an email to The Bee that “to say I raised healthcare costs is disingenuous. These were simply annual rate increases to keep up with inflation to ensure residents of San Joaquin County received the quality of care they deserve.”

Patti said in previous interviews that he supports expanding health care access. One of his biggest campaign focuses surrounds combating the opioid epidemic with further border security and educational services: He supports grants for services that help people with addiction, particularly those who are perpetually homeless.

Rep. Josh Harder meets with leaders from Golden Valley Health Centers Dec. 16 to talk about school-based health centers.
Rep. Josh Harder meets with leaders from Golden Valley Health Centers Dec. 16 to talk about school-based health centers.

For Harder, the ad references fighting drug companies to decrease the cost of prescriptions. He has supported several measures in the last few months to curb health care costs, including through Congress’ recent large tax and climate spending bill, the Inflation Reduction Act. He continues to push to cap insulin prices at $35 a month.

The 9th Congressional District

The 9th Congressional District leans left ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, according to analysts. It’s centered around Stockton and stretches south from Ripon, Tracy and Manteca to Thornton and Collierville in the north.

Harder, the incumbent, has represented the bottom third of the district in Congress since 2019. Through redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of legislative boundaries, his current 10th Congressional District was spliced apart.

Harder, 36, originally planned to run in the new 13th, which borders the new 9th to the south and holds half of his hometown of Turlock, but jumped north when Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, said he would not seek re-election there this year. Harder moved to Tracy with his wife and newborn daughter.

Patti, 58, has represented Lathrop, Manteca and parts of Stockton as part of District 3 of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors since 2017. He runs a crane company, Delta Cranes, that his father started.