A wide range of California voters are willing to give Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative the support it needs in November, but that could change in a hurry if the Legislature approves billions of dollars for the proposed high-speed rail project later this week, a new Field Poll shows.
More than a fifth of those voters backing Brown's tax plan, which would temporarily boost the sales tax by one-quarter of one cent and increase state income tax for those making more than $250,000 a year, say they would be less likely to support it if the state starts spending money on high-speed rail.
With total support for the initiative currently standing at 54 percent, these margins could be substantial enough to kill the tax plan altogether. And rightly so.
California voters are beginning to understand that the Golden State's problem isn't insufficient revenue, but misplaced priorities and unchecked spending. That point is only underscored by the fact that state lawmakers are looking to devote a king's ransom to this unloved, unviable transportation project at the same time that they're reaching an impasse on the public pension crisis that could ruin the state's fiscal outlook for the foreseeable future.
Unless and until California lawmakers can show that every dime of taxpayer money they collect is (A) being used for a necessary function of government and (B) being spent as efficiently as possible, they have earned the recalcitrance of the state's voters. With pensions moving from a simmer to a boil and billions headed towards high-speed rail, that day doesn't look to be coming anytime soon.