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Tax Day: Californians Feel Overburdened

Alyssa Dykman April 17, 2018
US Tax Form 1040 And Pen

Tax day is here, and Californians are feeling particularly burdened.

A record-high number of adults (72%) say that California ranks above average or near the top in per capita state and local tax burden compared to other states. This perception is close to the fiscal facts: a Tax Foundation report ranked California’s 2014 state and local tax collections per capita as 13th-highest in the nation.

Taxes are not only perceived to be high, but they are also viewed as disproportionate: a majority of Californians (56%) say they pay more taxes to state and local governments than they feel they should (37% much more, 19% somewhat more). Californians’ views were similar last March (58%), following an extension of income tax increases on high-earning residents. Today, traditionally tax-opposed Republicans (78%) are much more likely than independents (63%) and far more likely than Democrats (47%) to say that they pay much or somewhat more than they should. This perception is also more common across higher-income groups (65% $80,000 or more, 58% $40,000 to under $80,000). Lower-income groups are more divided: among residents with household incomes under $40,000, 47% say they pay more or somewhat more than they should, while 40% say they pay the right amount.

How do these views align with approval ratings of state elected officials? Among those who say they pay much more than they should, 50 percent disapprove of the way Jerry Brown is handling his job, 60 percent disapprove of the California Legislature, and 57 percent disapprove of the way that the state legislators representing their assembly and senate districts are doing at this time.

Nonetheless, legislators are moving forward with more tax proposals. According to a recent California Tax Foundation Report, the state legislature introduced 33 bills and constitutional amendments since the start of the 2017–18 legislative session that could increase taxes and fees by over $269 billion annually, though few are likely to become law. The most expensive proposals include a government-run healthcare tax, a sales tax on services, and a new tax on California businesses. These proposals come in the midst of an election year and expected state budget reserve of nearly $16 billion.

Californians will soon have the opportunity to make significant decisions at the ballot box—choosing new leaders and helping to shape the state’s future. Stay tuned to the PPIC Statewide Survey for timely coverage of this year’s election and Californians’ leadership preferences.

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