Capitol Alert

California income tax hike has wide lead, fewer back $2-a-pack tobacco tax increase

California voters on Nov. 8 will consider a ballot initiative that would tax cigarettes by an additional $2 per pack. They also will weigh a separate income tax increase on some of the state’s highest earners.
California voters on Nov. 8 will consider a ballot initiative that would tax cigarettes by an additional $2 per pack. They also will weigh a separate income tax increase on some of the state’s highest earners. AP

California’s likely voters solidly support a fall initiative to extend higher income taxes on top earners, while a separate proposal to boost state taxes on tobacco is clinging to a majority vote, according to a new survey released Monday.

The statewide Field/IGS Poll found Proposition 55, which would prolong for a dozen years 2012 income tax increases on some of the state’s highest-earning residents, was leading by 2-to-1 among likely voters, 60 percent to 30 percent. Proposition 56, a bid to hike by $2 a pack state taxes on cigarettes, is drawing the backing of 53 percent of voters. Forty percent oppose the tax increase, and 7 percent remain undecided.

Proposition 57, a criminal justice initiative advanced by Gov. Jerry Brown and supported by state Democrats, is backed by a clear majority.

Both tax measures are variations of past efforts in California. Proposition 55 grew out of the successful Proposition 30 initiative pushed by Brown and teachers unions and enacted by voters in 2012.

The latest attempt allows the sales tax portion to expire in 2016 and extends until 2030 income tax increases on roughly 1.5 percent of residents. For example, a single person making $300,000 would continue to pay an extra 1 percent on their income between $263,000 and $300,000.

With six weeks to go before the Nov. 8 election, poll director Mark DiCamillo said the income tax increase, with majority support from every subgroup except Republicans and conservatives, benefits by maintaining the state’s progressive tax structure. Voters are saying, ‘As long as it doesn’t affect me, you can extend the tax increase,’ ” DiCamillo said.

Proposition 56 comes after California voters defeated the Proposition 29 tobacco tax increase in 2012 by a razor-thin margin. For that June measure, which would have imposed an additional $1-per-pack state tax, the Field Poll taken in the days before the election showed it leading, 50 percent to 42 percent. It ultimately failed by less than 1 percentage point, 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent.

Proposition 56 is boosted by the backing of Democrats and younger voters. But a continued onslaught of spending by the opposition, led by tobacco companies, is threatening supporters’ closely held majority, DiCamillo said.

“It looks like that might be taking hold in some respect,” he said.

The survey found Brown’s Proposition 57, an effort to increase parole chances for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and give them more opportunities to earn credits for good behavior, way out ahead, 60 percent to 21 percent. Brown’s proposal, which also gives judges the ability to decide whether to try juveniles as adults, has raised far more than the county prosecutor-led opposition. Still, the topic lends itself to late, potent critiques designed to “raise voters’ fears in a hurry,” DiCamillo said.

“It sounds good (to voters), and (they) are in favor, but if they hear credible groups on the ‘no’ side in a big way they can change their minds,” he said. “If they had the money to do it.”

Crime victim advocate Marc Klaas ripped California Gov. Jerry Brown's prison and parole initiative at a press conference with district attorneys and victims' rights groups on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. They promoted their opposition to Brown’s ball

Gov. Jerry Brown, speaking to The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board on Monday Sept. 12, 2016, said district attorneys and other opponents of Proposition 57 are trying to "spook people" by suggesting all violent criminals would be let out of prison ea

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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