Well, here’s a shocker revealed by the most recent Public Policy of Institute of California poll: Voters are more likely to raise taxes on someone else than they are to raise taxes on themselves to help fund public education. 

When asked if they were willing to raise property taxes on businesses—the so-called split roll because the property tax system would be “split” offering different tax formulas between business and residential properties—likely voters supported the idea by 54% to 45%. But when asked if the two-thirds vote rule to raise local property taxes in the form of per parcel taxes on all properties to fund schools should be altered to a more-likely-to-pass 55% standard, likely voters shouted “no,” by 39% to 60%.

Mind you, the split roll question came immediately after the question if voters thought that state funding for local schools was adequate. The question found that 59% of likely voters thought state funding was not adequate.

PPIC asked a question on the split roll in January and at the time 49% approved. Certainly, subsequent teacher strikes probably changed attitudes but another influence on the current result was that this poll was all about education and the split roll question came after a series of questions dealing with education funding.

While that circumstance may have affected the results, so would questions challenging the wisdom of a split roll which did not appear in the poll.

What is likely to alter the positive feeling about the split roll is a campaign that details potential repercussions if the business tax passes. Arguments made about possible loss of jobs, economic disruption and pass-through costs of consumer goods just might change a few minds. The PPIC pollsters did not challenge the voters to think about these consequences.

Raising taxes on someone else is a tried and true formula in California from the recent increases in tobacco taxes and high-end income tax payers to the current discussions about gas and oil severance taxes and corporate and estate taxes.

At some point the ripple effects of these tax increases will be understood by the voters who don’t like the idea of direct taxes on themselves.


(UPDATE: PPIC president Mark Baldassare points out there was a difference between the January and April split roll questions. The April question specifically noted that a portion of the revenue raised would be dedicated to education.)