Capitol Alert

Gas tax repeal lacks ‘momentum’ in new poll of California voters

A high-profile initiative to repeal the recent increase to gasoline and diesel taxes continues to lag with likely California voters.

Just 41 percent plan to vote for Proposition 6, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, while 48 percent are opposed. That result is similar to a PPIC survey last month, when the measure trailed 39 percent to 52 percent among likely voters.

The small bump in support for Proposition 6, which would reverse the tax increase by requiring voter approval to raise fuel and vehicle license fees, indicates that the yes campaign has a “big hill to climb,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC. There are less than two weeks left until the election, and mail voters are already starting to return their ballots.

“I don’t see momentum in this poll,” Baldassare said.

The gasoline and diesel tax hikes were part of a transportation funding plan approved last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and mostly Democratic lawmakers to pay for highway, road and bridge repairs, as well as public transit projects. It is expected to bring in an average of $5.2 billion annually over the next decade from the higher fuel taxes and a new registration fee for cars.

Republican politicians launched an initiative to undo the funding plan last fall, in part, to buttress their prospects in a tough election cycle. Proponents argue that California already has enough money available for road maintenance without charging consumers more at the pump.

The PPIC poll found support for Proposition 6 increased slightly over the last month among Republican (53 percent) and independent (49 percent) likely voters. But opposition continues to grow with Democrats, the state’s largest block of voters, just a quarter of whom plan to vote for the measure.

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The gas tax repeal fares best in Orange and San Diego counties, where 52 percent of likely voters are in support. It is the only major region in the state where Proposition 6 holds a majority, according to the PPIC survey. In the San Francisco Bay Area and the Central Valley, just a third of respondents said they would vote yes.

Backers of Proposition 6 are waging an underdog campaign against well-funded business groups and construction trades unions, which have raised more than $30 million this year to defeat the repeal. They contend that eliminating the additional funding would cripple efforts to address an enormous backlog of critical infrastructure maintenance.

Supporters complain that a misleading ballot title has further hampered the measure; they recently sent out mailers purporting to “correct” the description. They are also airing advertisements that warn the gas tax will cost California families too much, though the spot uses inflated numbers to make that claim.

How much will your costs increase?

Enter the number of miles you drive annually, your vehicle’s mpg and value to see how much you pay per month, on average, under the gas tax at full implementation, compared to what you would pay if Proposition 6 passes and repeals the tax. Note: For gas-powered vehicles. Use numbers only.
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