10:00 PM PDT on Monday, September 19, 2011

BY JIM MILLER
SACRAMENTO BUREAU
jmiller@pe.com

SACRAMENTO – California voters overwhelmingly oppose the plan for automatic spending cuts to schools and other programs if state revenue comes in lower than expected, a new poll shows.

At the same time, they give solid marks to the man whose office would oversee the reductions.

Nine months into Gov. Jerry Brown’s third stint in the statehouse, a Field Poll released today finds that 49 percent of voters approve of the governor’s job performance, virtually unchanged from June and March.

Previous governors ranked higher during their first years in office. But Brown’s rating has held steady amid deep voter discontent about high unemployment and a struggling economy that has pushed down the job-approval ratings of other statewide officials, such as U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Today’s survey shows continuing disdain for the California Legislature, which has a 20 percent approval rating. And 65 percent of voters think the state is on the wrong track, virtually the same as earlier this year.

Voters divide roughly equally on the state spending cuts adopted this year. Roughly a third apiece think the cuts were too deep, about right, or did not go far enough.

But two-thirds of voters, including large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independent voters, object to a key part of the plan: up to $2.5 billion in automatic midyear cuts, mostly to education, if revenue falls short.

“What’s foreboding is the potential of these trigger cuts taking place,” Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said of voters. “The public may not be that well informed, but they’d like something else to take place.”

Brown’s Department of Finance will decide in December whether to carry out the cuts after evaluating revenue trends for the fiscal year.

To read entire story, click here.