Prop 13 Change, Gas Tax Repeal in Trouble in PPIC Poll

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

In tax conscience California, a split in attitude: the granddaddy of taxpayer protections looks safe while a threatened new gas tax increase might feel the same way according to the latest Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll.

Proposition 13, the nearly 40 year-old taxpayer shield, is being threatened with a proposal to split property into two categories and raise taxes on commercial property while leaving the tax policy on residences in tact. The plan often referred to a split roll could not muster 50% approval in the PPIC poll. Only 46% of likely voters agreed with the idea, 43% opposed. PPIC noted that the 46% number was the lowest the split roll idea garnered since the institute began polling the question in 2012.

The Prop 13 question was simple. It asked voters if commercial property should be assessed at its current value. There were no questions to push voters either way such as: if passed the measure will increase school funding OR increased business taxes means jobs lost. Such arguments would find their way during a campaign but did not appear in the poll.

Most political observers argue a ballot measure should top 60% before opposition campaigns cut down the margin before an election. The 46% for a split roll falls far short of that standard.

As does the support from likely voters to repeal the gas tax passed by the legislature last year. Without mentioning the size of the tax increase in the question, voters were asked if they supported repeal of the recently passed gas tax. 47% said Yes; 48% said no.

More obstacles for a repeal effort can be found in the question PPIC asked about the state budget related to transportation. The question explained that $4.6 billion from the newly passed gas tax and vehicle fee would go to fix roads, highways, bridges, rail and public transit. A large majority at 70% liked this idea while 26% opposed.

While campaigns are built to counter the simple idea put forth in the question, you are sure to see ads against the repeal listing specific projects that would benefit from the spending.

In addition, if former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa makes the general election in November, his presence on the ballot may help push back against the repeal. The PPIC poll showed strong support for Villaraigosa among Latino voters and also revealed that Latinos are less likely to favor the repeal than other ethnic groups. (More on the governor’s race tomorrow.)

While we are just in the early stages of the 2018 election cycle, the response of likely voters to these two potential high profile ballot measures indicates proponents have a lot of work to do. The early numbers could affect fundraising efforts in support of these measures—if and when they make the ballot.

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