A construction worker digs next to a roadway at Los Angeles International Airport.
A majority of California voters oppose the state’s recently passed gas tax and vehicle fee increases that will pay for state roads and expand mass transit, according to a poll released Friday.
About 58% of registered voters surveyed said they oppose the increases that were recently approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, according to the IGS Poll, a survey by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. About 35% said they support the new taxes and fees.
The increases approved in April will generate about $5.2 billion annually during the first 10 years to start paying for a $130-billion backlog of road and highway repairs.
The poll found that nearly three times as many respondents — 39% — said they strongly oppose the higher taxes and fees as those who said they strongly support it.
A large majority of respondents who identified themselves as strongly liberal said they support the change.
But overall, they poll found, the new law is opposed by big majorities of Republicans and no-party-preference respondents, political conservatives and moderates, members of all major races and ethnic groups, men, women, and people over 30.
The Carrizo Plain National Monument, carpeted with wildflowers this spring, is one of six national monuments in California that are under review by the Trump administration. The Panama Hotel on L.A.’s skid row is being converted from transitional housing with 220 rooms to apartments for 72 permanent residents. (John Myers / Los Angeles Times)
The effort to craft a new state budget before next week’s deadline advanced late Thursday night, although a few hotly debated items — including how to spend new tobacco tax dollars — remained in limbo.
The Legislature’s budget conference committee signed off on both the framework and several detailed proposals of a spending plan that’s likely to exceed $180 billion. Lawmakers must have the agreements drafted and available for public review at least 72 hours before final passage, as required under transparency rules approved by voters last November.
The budget plan boosts K-12 school funding and provides money for more in-state students attending the University of California and Cal State University systems. It preserves the state’s Middle Class Scholarship program — a concession made by Gov. Jerry Brown, who wanted to phase it out.
Lawmakers agreed to expand access to California’s new earned income tax credit for low-income citizens. And they approved $111 million for repairs to the damaged Oroville Dam spillway and other emergency flood projects.
Not all items had a clear nexus to next year’s state spending. Thursday’s action included approval of orientation meetings for new government workers, at which the benefits of public employee union membership could be promoted. Unions began lobbying for the idea after a lawsuit challenged the state’s rules for union dues. The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on the lawsuit in 2016.
No unresolved item loomed larger than how to spend $1.3-billion in proceeds from Proposition 56, which increased the state’s tobacco tax by $2 per pack of cigarettes. Lawmakers have insisted the money must be used to increase payments made to doctors and dentists who treat patients enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s healthcare program for the poor. Brown, however, has said the state needs the money for existing Medi-Cal commitments.
"We’re trying to balance that with the fiscal prudence that we think is required," Amy Costa, the governor’s deputy budget director, said during testimony at Thursday night’s hearing.
The Brown administration and legislators agreed to keep negotiating how to spend the tobacco taxes. They also left unresolved the issue of whether the budget will include an extension of California’s cap-and-trade program, which limits carbon emissions and forces companies to pay for pollution allowances that exceed the cap. The program is now set to expire in 2020.
The California Constitution requires legislators send Brown a budget plan on June 15 or forfeit their salary until the work is complete. The state’s new fiscal year begins on July 1.
"We have listened to law enforcement talk about how horrible Prop. 47 is,” said Vonya Quarles, an advocate for the formerly incarcerated. “Now we have a chance to help the people who are hurting.” Robert Lee Ahn looks up at a television screen displaying election results Tuesday night.