By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com
Published: Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Gov. Jerry Brown still has public support for his tax plan, but the margin has slipped, and so has his public approval rating, according to a Field Poll released today.

The poll comes as legislative Democrats – frustrated by months of failed budget talks between Brown and Republican lawmakers – prepare today to take up a budget of their own.

Though Brown’s public approval rating has slipped just two percentage points since March, to 46 percent, many Californians who previously were undecided about Brown made up their minds against him. Thirty-one percent of voters disapprove of Brown’s job performance, up from 21 percent in March.

“Three months ago he was still in his honeymoon period with voters,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “Now I think what you’re seeing is more of a return to normal.”

Fifty-two percent of registered voters surveyed said they would be willing to extend temporary tax increases to close the state’s remaining $9.6 billion budget deficit, a drop of nine percentage points from March.

“Three months ago the budget deficit was in the neighborhood of $25 billion. The public thought, in some respects, that the sky was falling for California,” DiCamillo said.

“I would have to say that the lessening of the severity of the problem makes voters a little less inclined to go into their own pocket to pay for this.”

The Democratic governor has said he will continue to negotiate for the four Republican votes he needs to put taxes on a fall ballot. Talks broke down over Brown’s proposal to extend the taxes, which are scheduled to expire this month, until after an election.

By a narrow margin, voters favor a three-month bridge to keep higher taxes in place until a fall election, according to the poll.

A campaign for taxes would likely become more difficult for Brown if tax extensions expire. Fifty-nine percent of voters said they would not support paying higher taxes, according to the poll.

The public’s opinion of the Legislature, though still low, improved slightly from March, with 23 percent of voters approving of the job lawmakers doing.

About two-thirds of voters, however, still think California is heading in the wrong direction, and 69 percent don’t have much confidence in the Legislature to do what is right to resolve the deficit, according to the poll.

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