The Brown Administration’s hidden energy tax is being imposed on struggling small businesses and all Californians by an unelected body via a complicated and obscure process.

It would be considered by some a snoozer of an issue if the implications of this $30 billion tax weren’t so severe: the potential for $6-a-gallon gasoline and higher energy bills for small businesses and consumers, a tax that quite literally will hit job creators when they’re down.

So it was encouraging to witness thousands of frustrated Californians respond to an awareness campaign by Californians Against Higher Taxes with  signed petitions and cards demanding an end to this bad idea at a bad time.

It was my honor to join a number of other small business representatives in our state as we delivered those 2,500 petitions and cards to Governor Brown’s office on Wednesday. Signers were invited to add comments of their own and many did, providing a rare and untarnished view into the frustrations and fears of the state’s taxpayers.

At the delivery, the governor’s office reception staff was delightfully charming. But is anyone listening behind the locked doors?

I would urge his staff to read through the comments, and the governor himself needs to take heed of what they say.

“STOP, STOP, STOP the high gas prices and for the love of God, more jobs! The economy can’t turn around the middle and lower classes don’t have money for the necessities!!!!”           

“We cannot afford more increases on utilities … stop it”

“In California, we need more jobs and not taxes.”

“Are they kidding? We can’t afford anymore high taxes and if they feel they must, we will set them free. They sure are not looking out for our best interests and they are not representing my beliefs.”

Some may in fact find merit with the basic premise of the cap-and-trade program: allow companies below the state-established emissions limit to sell credits to companies above the limit, enabling the state as whole to meet its goal. But the Brown Administration now plans to hijack the program and turn it into a tax by withholding some credits to sell themselves, forcing companies to pay into state coffers. One study estimates the plan will relieve companies of $30 billion dollars by 2020.

Make no mistake: this is a tax, plain and simple. Yet the plan has never received the constitutionally-required vote of the people or a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

The tax will most likely hit energy-producing companies the hardest, forcing them to try to recoup the loss through job cuts or higher prices. Large energy consumers such as schools and hospitals will also be hit hard. And small businesses, along with consumers, will foot the bill for higher energy costs, higher prices at the pump and higher costs for everyday products and services.

The National Federation of Independent Business is the largest organization representing small businesses in the state. Our members have become amazingly energy efficient, with 45% taking measures to make their businesses “greener” all on their own and without the heavy hand of government. Many have cut their electricity use to the bare minimum. They will have to meet those higher costs with their own cutbacks or higher prices. It’s no wonder or surprise, then, that our own research shows that our members rank “soaring energy prices” as their greatest small business concern, second only to “rising health care costs”.

So in the midst of this stubbornly dismal economy and one of the highest tax burdens in the country, California small businesses face the prospect of state-induced energy cost increases because of the illegal hidden cap-and-trade energy tax.

How do they feel?

Read the petitions.