LOS ANGELES (AP) — Californians passed up two chances to lower taxes, voting to keep higher gasoline taxes and reject a proposed tax break for older homeowners in moves that experts said could highlight a greater tolerance for taxes even as many state residents bemoan the high cost of living.
Voters on Tuesday rejected Proposition 6, a Republican-backed proposal to repeal increases in fuel taxes and vehicle fees that are funding $52 billion in road fixes and transit upgrades over a decade.
A separate measure, Proposition 5, to expand a property tax break for older homeowners who move also failed at the polls.
“We are more willing to tax ourselves than 30 or 40 years ago,” said Wesley Hussey, political science professor at California State University, Sacramento. “The state has become more Democratic, but it is still a very cautious state when it comes to taxation.”
In a major pushback against taxation four decades ago, California passed Proposition 13, dramatically limiting property tax increases. Since then, the state’s demographics and politics have changed, and some experts said that may have made taxes more palatable to voters.
Democrats now hold nearly all statewide offices and are aiming for a two-thirds majority in the state Legislature. About 44 percent of registered voters are Democrats and only one in four are registered Republicans. Both parties have seen their share of registered voters decline since 1978 amid a surge in independents.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, persuaded voters to support raising income taxes on the wealthy six years ago to cope with a state budget crisis. Brown was re-elected two years later, and voters approved a ballot measure extending the increases two years after that.
“If we look at the politics of it, I think it was widely seen to solve a problem,” said Joseph Bankman, a professor at Stanford Law School who researches tax law.
With nearly 8 million ballots counted Wednesday, Proposition 5 was behind with 42 percent of the vote. Proposition 6 garnered about 45 percent of votes counted.
Jeffrey Cummins, a political science professor at California State University, Fresno, said while the two measures faced different challenges, both tapped a growing willingness among Californians to consider higher taxes.