Voters back tobacco tax but split on term-limits change

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A proposed $1-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes remains highly popular among California voters, but they are split over whether to change the state’s 22-year-old term limits law, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

The two measures will appear on Tuesday’s statewide primary ballot.


The tobacco tax, which will be before voters as Proposition 29 on the June ballot, is backed by 62% of state voters, while just 33% say they oppose the initiative. If passed, the measure would increase levies on other tobacco products in addition to the $1 increase on cigarettes.

The money generated, about $850 million per year, according to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, would pay for more cancer research and help law enforcement fight illegal cigarette sales.

The strong support comes despite a $40-million campaign by tobacco companies, which have run ads criticizing the measure for creating a new state bureaucracy and the fact that it would do nothing to help close California’s estimated $15.7-billion budget deficit.

Proponents of the measure, including the American Heart Assn. and American Lung Assn., have countered with ads featuring former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, who runs an anti-cancer foundation in Austin, Texas.

Voters are less sure about whether they want to change term limits for state legislators. Proposition 28 would allow California lawmakers to serve 12 years in either legislative house instead of the current limits of three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate.

Just 49% of voters said they would support the change, while 33% of those surveyed said they would not. Independents and Democrats back the change -– 53% and 51% of those voters respectively back the measure. A plurality of Republicans also back the measure, with 46% in favor and 36% of Republican voters in opposition.

The measure is backed by the California Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. The initiative is opposed by U.S. Term Limits and taxpayer groups.

California voters narrowly rejected a similar measure in 2004. Voters passed the original term-limits law in 1990.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll canvassed 1,002 registered voters from May 17 through May 21. The survey was conducted jointly by the Democratic polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Republican firm American Viewpoint. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

Related links:

New fight takes shape over term limits

Tobacco company ads take aim at Proposition 29

Lance Armstrong campaigns for cigarette tax measure

-- Anthony York in Sacramento