Why the Tobacco Tax Defeat Does Not Bode Well for Gov. Brown

The last time California voters voted in favor of a tax increase was in 2004--the 1% tax increase on millionaires to fund mental health programs.  Since then, every other ballot measure proposing to raise taxes has failed.

Since only 14% of Californians smoke, and public smoking is already banned throughout most of California, you would think that a $1 per pack tax to fund cancer research would not have been a hard sell.  The reason it did fail is not because Californians are against cancer research, but because of a strong distrust of how proceeds would ultimately be used.  So reads the LA Times:

Many voters bought the idea that Proposition 29 was more of a tax than a strategy to reduce smoking and cure disease. ... The money it generated, the tobacco industry said, would go to a financially inept state government that for many years running has had a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

"Californians are not anti-government," [Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.] said. "But they want value for their tax dollars, and they perceive correctly that they are not getting that in Sacramento."

Taxpayers have soured on expensive new ventures that promise economic windfalls and easier daily lives, he said. They remember, he said, approving a $3-billion bond measure for stem-cell research, only to hear that outsized salaries were being collected by executives running the program. He said they remember passing a $9-billion state bond measure in 2008 to build a high-speed rail network, a project that has seen costs and roadblocks multiply.

Of course, the big question is in light of Prop 29s defeat, what chance will Gov. Browns initiative have at the polls as his initiative is much broader--including both a broad based sales tax increase and increased income taxes on those making $250K or more.