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Survey Says: Bay Area 10-cent Gas Tax Would Fail.....Miserably!

Needing a two-thirds majority to pass, a recent survey suggests that a regional, 9-county gas tax proposal to fund transportation improvement projects in the Bay Area would only receive 43% support if it were to go to the ballot.
April 17, 2012, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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According to Michael Cabanatuan, even survey respondents in the Bay Area's most liberal county, San Francisco, only showed 50% support. Concern over the economy and already high gas prices were the predominant reasons respondents opposed the tax.

The survey was authorized by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional planning agency that will decide whether to put such a tax on the ballot. Based on the results, "Steve Heminger, the commission's executive director, suggested sitting out this fall's election."

"The poll, conducted by phone, surveyed 400 frequent voters in each of the nine Bay Area counties.

Pollsters asked voters whether they would approve a 10-cent gas tax "to improve the efficiency and reliability of Bay Area public transit, make repairs and safety improvements to local streets and roads, and provide other regional transportation improvements." The question also set a limit of 20 years, and required that at least 95 percent of the money generated in a county would be spent in that county.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, a Metropolitan Transportation Commissioner, said he's puzzled by the opposition to gas taxes since oil companies can raise gas prices several cents without drawing much complaint."

However, rising gas prices would affect how people vote on gas taxes, the survey showed.

"Over the four weeks the survey was taken, gas prices rose 30 cents a gallon, the number of people concerned about fuel costs rose 12 percent, and gas-tax support dropped 6 percent."

"They just put that nozzle in the tank, and there is absolutely no benefit to them," Haggerty said. "But when you say we want to do a gas tax (to pay for transportation improvements), the reaction is 'no.' "

Other regions, such as Dallas, have also considered regional gas taxes. The first task is generally to get legislative authority - not an easy haul as the failed Texas attempt demonstrated.

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Published on Thursday, April 12, 2012 in San Francisco Chronicle
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