California Poll: Voters Likely to Repeal 12-Cents Gas Tax Increase in November

It's not looking good for transportation advocates who want to retain over $5 billion in annual transportation funding made possible the passage of a bill last year that enabled the first gas tax increase in California since 1994.

3 minute read

May 25, 2018, 12:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

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As gas prices surge in California, the findings of a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times statewide poll asking registered voters in the state if they would vote to retain or repeal Senate Bill 1, the transportation funding bill approved by the legislature last year that hiked gas taxes on November 1 by 12-cents per gallon, as well as added new vehicle registration fees, should not have been surprising.

On April 30, Republican organizers turned-in more than 940,000 signatures, 355,000 more than needed to place a ballot measure to repeal all the taxes and fees included in SB 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017

The California Voter Approval for Gas and Vehicle Taxes Initiative will likely appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment.

The poll found that repeal was favored by 51% of voters while 38% supported keeping the higher taxes; 9% hadn't heard enough to say either way and 2% said they wouldn't vote on the measure, reports Patrick McGreevy for the Los Angeles Times on May 24. This is the third post (see below for prior two) on polls taken since November on the repeal initiative(s). The needle hasn't moved.

The results bode well for a measure that Republican members of Congress hope to place on the November statewide ballot that could boost turnout of GOP voters by offering the chance to repeal the gas tax increase, said Bob Shrum, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

If it qualifies for the ballot it will be, I suspect, very hard to sustain it," Shrum said of the tax. "It's almost dead."

Shrum then qualified that prediction:

The governor and other supporters of the tax "might have a chance" to succeed, Shrum said, if they make the question about safe bridges, fixing the state's crumbling roads and boosting the economy. That is the tactic that seems to be emerging.

However, gas prices are projected by some experts to top $4 per gallon this summer in California, which won't help opponents of the repeal.

According to McGreevy, "the California Transportation Commission has so far allocated $9.2 billion for transportation projects throughout California as a result of SB 1." Last month, funding for projects totaling $4.3 billion, financed with revenues from SB 1 and the state's cap-and-trade fund, was announced by the California State Transportation Agency and other state officials.

A campaign has been launched to fight the repeal. The "Fix Our Roads" coalition is also supporting a "transportation lockbox" measure, Proposition 69, on the primary ballot next month (posted here along with other June ballot measures) to ensure that two of the funding options in SB 1, the diesel sales tax and a new, variable motor vehicle registration fee, are dedicated to transportation purposes. 

As of April 1, California had the nation's second highest state gas tax: 54.73 cents-per-gallon, after Pennsylvania: 59.3 cents-per-gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute, followed by Washington, Hawaii and New York, respectively.

Prior posts in Planetizen on polling of gas tax repeal

  • December 27, 2017, The Mercury News
    According to a UC Berkeley poll released Dec. 22, 52% of likely voters statewide would support either of two initiatives that hope to be placed on the ballot next November to repeal the gas tax that took effect Nov. 1, while 43% would retain the tax.
  • November 15, 2017; San Francisco Chronicle
    On Nov. 1, fuel taxes increased for the first time in 23 years in California. Next November, Californians will likely decide whether to return those taxes to 1994 levels, as well as repeal other tax and fee hikes passed by the legislature in April.

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

Thursday, May 24, 2018 in Los Angeles Times

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