LA Times: Most California voters already want to overturn gas tax increase, poll finds

Most California voters would scrap the higher gas tax and vehicle fees recently approved by the Legislature to provide money to repair the state’s roads and bridges and improve mass transit, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

When asked their preference if the matter were put to a vote today, 54.2% of registered voters surveyed said they would cancel the tax and fee hikes, and 45.8% said they would vote to keep the increases in place.

The question is timely because two groups are working to put initiatives on the November 2018 ballot that would allow voters to repeal the 12-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase that took effect this month and motor vehicle fee increases that start next year.

“Put to a popular vote, the gas tax for infrastructure is in trouble,” said Robert Shrum, the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “I certainly would not want to start out at 47% support if I was in favor of this and there was a ballot measure.

“This is a socially liberal state tinged with fiscal conservatism and a certain level of frustration with taxes,” he added.

Opposition is strongest among Republicans — 74.6% wanted to cancel the tax increase and fees, according to Jill Darling, survey director at the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

The gas tax increase is supported by 55% of Democrats, the poll found, which Darling said is “pretty lukewarm” given that the party is responsible for the legislation.

There also were strong regional differences. Voters in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area — California’s most traffic-clogged regions — favored preserving the gas tax increase, the poll found. L.A. voters surveyed backed it by 52.8%, and Bay Area voters by 57.9%. In all other regions, majorities of respondents said they favored canceling it.

The poll was conducted online among 1,504 eligible voters in California from Oct. 27 through Nov. 6 — right as the gas tax increase was taking effect. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll results were not surprising to opponents of the gas tax legislation, including Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilman who is heading an initiative drive to repeal the tax.

“No amount of spin and deception will fool California voters because they know the gas tax adds to their cost of living without fixing our roads,” DeMaio said.

However, the poll was not a significant concern to supporters of the gas tax, including Michael Quigley, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs.

“While no one likes to pay more for anything, we’re confident that when voters see the benefits and accountability provisions in SB 1 — driving on better roads, safer bridges and less traffic congestion – they’ll oppose any repeal,” Quigley said.  “Our polling shows voters strongly oppose repealing funds for transportation improvements.”

Facts about this massive hike:

-On November 1, 2017, Californians became subject to an additional tax of 12.5 cents more per gallon (20 cents more for diesel) at the pump – and hundreds of dollars more per year for their car registration.

-The typical family of four will pay $779.28 more per year because of the gas and car tax hikes. The tax also hits business owners who rely on transporting goods, raising the cost of everything from apples to shipping baby diapers.

-For every $1 on average spent by the other 49 states to maintain a mile of highway, it costs California state bureaucrats $4.7 – a whopping 470% cost inflation due to waste and inefficiency.

-The tax revenue goes into the state’s General Fund, meaning there’s zero guarantee the money will be used to actually fund the transportation “fixes” they claim will happen.  In fact, only 20% of the gas tax in recent years has gone to roads projects.  Most of the money is diverted to transit, bike lanes, park land acquisition, and general support of the state’s large bureaucracy.