According to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll likely voters in the state are for raising taxes … or not. At first glance it might appear that divergent attitudes about potential tax measures gain support or opposition depending on the issue. The truth is much simpler and consists of a long held attitude with the voting public.
PPIC found that likely voters are all for raising taxes on cigarettes to fund health care, 67% to 31%. Likewise, continuing increased income tax rates on upper end income taxpayers by extending Proposition 30 a dozen years also found support from likely voters, 58% to 39%.
While the poll respondents liked the idea of raising taxes for health care and education they seemed to be against raising taxes for roads and transportation infrastructure.
PPIC first asked whether those polled agreed with Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget released after the May revision. Likely voters roundly supported the budget as described by the pollsters, 60% to 32%.
But then, the pollsters followed-up by relating that Brown’s budget also included a new fee on vehicles and an increase in the state gasoline tax to fund transportation infrastructure. How do you like the governor’s budget now, respondents were asked. Not so much. 37% favored the budget with the taxes and fees, while 59% opposed.
PPIC turned to the issue of local tax increases for transportation that will appear on a number of ballots around the state in November. Asked if there were a local measure increasing the sales tax for surface transportation how would they vote, only 38% said yes, while 58% said No.
You could take from this rundown on the tax questions that voters are all for education and health care but not so enamored with funding transportation infrastructure.
I think there is another way to analyze the results.
The higher income tax rates and the cigarette tax, generally, would fall on someone else. Few voters are in income tax brackets affected by the Prop 30 tax rates. PPIC noted that the higher the income of the respondents the lower support for the measure. But there are many more voters who don’t have to worry about paying the tax.
Similarly, the number of people who smoke cigarettes and would be hit with the cigarette tax increase are a distinct minority.
But when it comes to raising sales tax on the local level or gasoline tax or car fees that’s another story. Many more people would be hit with those new taxes. The majority of likely voters, not unexpectedly, rejected the idea of raising taxes – on themselves.
The poll confirmed that age-old political truth that voters don’t mind supporting government programs if someone else pays for them. The idea is expressed in that old rhyme supposedly made famous by U.S. Senator Russell Long in the 1970s, although with a long historical antecedent:
Don’t tax you,
Don’t tax me,
Tax that fellow behind the tree.