Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
April 27, 2011

Most California voters still support Gov. Jerry Brown’s special election to resolve the state deficit, but they send mixed messages when it comes to approving taxes on the ballot, the latest Public Policy Institute of California survey shows.

The Democratic governor is trying to convince lawmakers to place taxes on a statewide ballot at some point this year despite falling short in his initial pursuit of a June election. The PPIC poll found 56 percent of likely voters still think the special election is a good idea.

When presented with details of Brown’s plan, including the fact that Brown’s temporary tax increases would spare K-12 schools from cuts, 61 percent of likely voters said they favor his plan.

But when asked specifically about an increase in higher personal income taxes to pay for K-12 education, 62 percent of voters said they oppose the idea. And 61 percent said they oppose higher sales taxes for schools. Brown has proposed maintaining higher sales taxes and retroactively extending higher income taxes for five years as part of his budget solution.

“To me, it underscores generally the challenge of going to voters and asking them to raise their taxes,” said PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare. “It would need to be very carefully placed in a package that involves a clear and consistent message about the balance between spending cuts and anything on the revenue side.”

The only tax idea that won support in the PPIC poll was raising income taxes on the rich – which garnered 68 percent support. Brown and legislative leaders so far have not seriously considered that idea to solve the remaining $15.4 billion deficit, but the California Federation of Teachers is sponsoring a bill to raise taxes by 1 percent on income above $500,000 to raise an estimated $2.3 billion. That proposal is Assembly Bill 1130 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

It is difficult to compare this poll’s results to PPIC’s previous surveys on special election taxes. Previous polls asked voters about tax extensions, a phrasing this poll did not use. Baldassare said this particular PPIC poll was an annual survey on education issues which asks each year specifically about tax increases, so its questions were not necessarily determinative of how taxes would be framed should there be a special election.

Elsewhere in the survey, likely voters gave Brown a 46 percent approval rating, higher than the 41 percent he received in March. They gave the Legislature a 14 percent approval mark, close to the 16 percent in March.

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