Survey Finds Bipartisan Voter Support for New Tobacco Tax Increases
More than 70% of California voters say they would support a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase to help close the state's gaping budget deficit, the Oakland Tribune reports (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 7/7).
Democratic legislators included the tobacco tax in their original budget package, but removed the provision last week after Republican lawmakers refused to support any tax hikes.
The tobacco tax could generate an estimated $1.2 billion per year in state revenue.
Although lawmakers did not undertake any formal budget negotiations yesterday, they are under pressure to develop a budget plan by the end of the week. Many banks have said they will stop accepting state-issued IOUs after Friday (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 7/7).
The American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association commissioned the poll, which was conducted jointly by Democratic and Republican polling firms.
The researchers interviewed 500 randomly selected registered voters plus an oversample of 100 Republicans (Oakland Tribune, 7/7).
They asked voters to provide feedback on a $1.50 per pack tax hike if the state directed 85% of revenue into general spending and 15% into smoking prevention programs and research on tobacco-related diseases (Ventura County Star, 7/7).
They found support for the cigarette tax hike among:
- 78% of Democrats;
- 75% of Independents; and
- 65% of Republicans.
The survey also found that 57% of voters would be more likely to support a legislative candidate who favored the tax increase, while 20% would be less likely to back such a candidate. Among Republicans, 48% would back a candidate who supported the tobacco tax, while 29% would be less likely to do so.
The investigators also asked voters about their preferred strategies for addressing the budget deficit. They found that:
- 13% favored a primary focus on tax increases;
- 50% preferred a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts; and
- 25% supported a primary emphasis on spending reductions.
However, even among the 25% who strongly preferred spending cuts, about 52% still favored the cigarette tax, according to the poll.
The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points overall and 5.9 percentage points among Republican voters.
Republicans Stand Their Ground
Despite the poll results, Republican lawmakers remained committed in their opposition to raising taxes.
Aaron McLear, spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), said "The governor is standing firm in his opposition to further tax increases. We need to live within our means."
Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) also opposes the tax hike, spokesperson Melanie Reagan said. She added, "Tax increases aren't the answer."In a statement, Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) said, "Raising taxes again will only further damage the economy" (Oakland Tribune, 7/7). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.