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Survey Finds Surprising Attitudes toward Increasing Gas Tax

If there's a solid take-away from the California Field Poll, it is not to ask residents how they feel about raising gas taxes, or any one option for that matter. Rather, offer a menu of funding alternatives and the results become more meaningful.
February 28, 2015, 7am PST | Irvin Dawid
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California residents overwhelmingly agree that "state and local officials should dedicate additional resources to existing roadways," writes Christopher Cadelago, political reporter in The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau about the Field Poll telephone survey results [PDF] released Friday on state transportation funding options. How to pay for it—now that's the $59 billion question. No surprise there.

A Field Poll asked California motorists about three funding options to pay for road infrastructure:

  • 10-cent increase in the gas tax:  49 percent support
  • Build more toll roads:              38 percent support
  • Pay by the mile traveled:          30 percent support

When presented this way, gas tax increases are clearly more palatable than the other alternatives presented. Pie charts created by The Sacramento Bee show the results more clearly and comprehensively.

The results contrast sharply with a 2011 Rockefeller Foundation poll (posted here) on the same funding options but asked nationwide. Either Californians differ remarkably for other U.S. residents, or attitudes have changed rather dramatically in four years, or a combination of the two:

  • 71 percent opposed a gas tax increase, 
  • 64 percent were against new tolls on existing roads and bridges, and 
  • 58 percent said no to paying for each mile they drive.

Another question dealt with whether to fund existing roads vs. building new ones: 71 percent support existing while 48 percent favored new roads.

Unfortunately, currently no gas tax legislation appears to be in the works in the Golden State, and February 27 was the deadline to introduce bills. This correspondent did not even see Assembly Speaker Atkin's much touted $50 annual flat fee in bill form.

With 49 percent of respondents supporting a 10-cent increase, it wold seem not a huge ask of legislators to simply maintain the existing 36-cent gas tax that is set to decrease by six-cents on July 1 due to the February 24 vote by the Board of Equalization.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, February 26, 2015 in Sacramento Bee
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