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Are you sticking with the gas tax increase? Poll says most California voters now plan to

See how much California’s gas tax will rise through 2020

Increases to California's gas tax were approved in 2017 and will continue for years.
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Increases to California's gas tax were approved in 2017 and will continue for years.

The recent increase in gasoline and diesel taxes is not particularly popular among California voters, but a campaign to undo those price hikes trails by a wide margin, according to a new poll.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that slightly more than half of likely voters — 52 percent — oppose Proposition 6, which would reverse the tax increases by requiring voter approval to raise fuel and vehicle license fees, while 39 percent favor the initiative.

Gov. Jerry Brown and mostly Democratic lawmakers last year passed a transportation funding plan that will provide an estimated $5.2 billion annually for road, highway and bridge repairs, as well as public transit projects, by increasing the excise taxes on gasoline and diesel and creating a new registration fee for cars based on their value.

Arguing that California has enough money for road maintenance without charging consumers more at the pump, Republicans launched an initiative to repeal the fees. It has been their key issue in political campaigns this year.

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Voters are split over the gas tax increase. In a separate question, 50 percent of respondents told PPIC they favor repealing it and 46 percent said they are opposed.

“If that’s the starting point for support,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC, “that’s going to be tough.”

When voters hear pollsters read the ballot label for Proposition 6 and more about what it would do, approval drops considerably. It does not lead with any demographic or in any region of the state; even among Republicans, it only polls at 50 percent.

Carl DeMaio is introducing a new initiative for the 2020 ballot he says will force California to be more accountable when using tax dollars. The initiative would end the high-speed rail project and establish a “citizen lock-box” for road repairs.

“The label is one that makes you think about not just the benefits, but what is the consequence of repealing the gas tax,” Baldassare said. “When you’re repealing a tax, it’s not just about the tax itself. It’s what happens to that revenue.”

Earlier this week, proponents of the repeal officially announced a follow-up initiative for the 2020 ballot that would pay for road repairs by redirecting fuel tax revenues and sales taxes from automobile purchases. They contend their plan would put more money into transportation projects than the current gasoline and diesel tax increase, but it would also require major cuts to other programs in state and local budgets.

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