The Gas Tax Repeal is in Trouble, But….

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

The most recent Public Policy Institute of California poll shows Proposition 6 has fallen behind with likely voters 52% no to 39% yes. On top of that, the $30 million campaign set to defeat the measure is kicking off. This is one measure that has the unusual coalition of big business and big labor on the same side. Even in areas that you would think would be more sympathetic to tax reduction in Orange and San Diego counties poll respondents opposed the gas tax repeal 35% to 50%.

There was even a recall of a state senator in a district that covered a portion of Orange County based on the senator’s vote to increase the gas tax but voters there don’t seem to be rallying to Prop 6.

The odds seemed stacked against proponents of Prop 6. But while political factors may not alter the outcome of Prop 6 being rejected, market factors just might.

Gasoline prices are moving toward $4 a gallon in Southern California according to the Los Angeles Times. Worldwide oil prices are going up and California still imports oil. Gasoline per-gallon prices are up 19% from a year ago, partly due to the 12-cent a gallon tax increase. That part can be changed by voters on Election Day.

Analysts in the oil business have been talking about the possibility of $100 a barrel. Although that will not happen before the election, crude oil prices continue to climb affecting the price at the pump.

The price increase will have to be significant to shake some of the numbers in the PPIC poll. Every category from demographics to geographical areas to household income—except Republicans—opposed the gas tax repeal.

PPIC president and poll guru Mark Baldassare told me, “I was surprised that Proposition 6 fell short of majority support across the major regions.”

There is still an undercurrent of support for repeal as measured by a separate PPIC poll question, a simple ask about the desire to repeal the tax increase not clouded by a ballot title that is not clear in the proposition’s goal. The yes campaign will try to exploit that.

But the Yes side of Prop 6 has a hill to climb and it will be tough with so much money on the other side. However, they may climb up that hill and surprise as the gasoline price also rises.

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