Potholes or pocketbook? California voters decry road problems and the gas tax aimed at repairing them

More than three out of four California voters think the state’s roads and highways are not in good shape, but voters support a proposed initiative to repeal the state’s new gas tax law by a five-to-four margin, according to a new Berkeley IGS Poll released today by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

The gas tax was approved by two-thirds of the state Legislature and signed into law in April, clearing the way for about $5 billion a year in added state revenues that are dedicated to transportation and road repairs. Taxes were increased by 12 cents per gallon on gasoline and by 20 cents per gallon on diesel.

Starting Jan. 1, vehicle registration fees were raised with owners of vehicles worth less than $5,000 paying a fee of $25 a year, while those with vehicles valued at more than $60,000 paying $175 a year. Monies raised will go to local and regional transportation projects. 

Opponents of the law are seeking to qualify an initiative on next year’s statewide election ballot to repeal the law. 

The Berkeley IGS Poll found that six in ten of those voters surveyed during the week of Dec. 7-16 say Californians pay more for gas than residents of other states and their feelings about the gas tax are largely based on that resentment rather than a concern for the state’s roadways.

Ironically, the new poll comes on the heels of news of a decline in gas prices across the country, even in California. U.S. gasoline prices averaged $2.41 a gallon on Monday, down 3.3 cents from last Monday and the lowest price in more than three months. The falling gas prices are attributed to a decline in demand over the holiday season.

Like many of the recent results of Berkeley IGS Poll research, the latest check-in with California voters shows a split largely along party lines. The greatest support (81 percent) for repealing the gas tax comes from registered Republicans, while 60 percent of Democrats oppose the move.

There also appears to be a substantial divide on the question depending on geography.  Inland counties support the repeal idea by a ratio of more than two-to-one, but San Francisco Bay Area voters favor keeping the tax.


Read the full survey here.