BY JIM MILLER
Published: 04 July 2012 11:30 PM
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown and fellow Democrats in the Legislature could deal a mortal blow to the governor’s tax-increase initiative if they follow through on plans to appropriate billions of dollars for a high-speed rail system, a new survey suggests.
Fifty-four percent of likely November voters support Brown’s measure to temporarily raise the sales tax and increase income taxes on high earners, according to today’s Field Poll. Thirty-eight percent oppose it and 8 percent are undecided.
Those numbers keep the governor’s initiative ahead of a pair of other tax measures on the ballot promoted by attorney Molly Munger and hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer.
But the election is still four months away and today’s poll suggests that the tenuous lead for the governor’s measure, a cornerstone of the budget package approved last week, could disappear if lawmakers approve high-speed rail money. A vote could come as early as Thursday, July 5.
Thirty-one percent of voters said they would be “less likely to support” the tax initiative if lawmakers approve the high-speed rail funds, including about a fifth of voters now backing the tax measure. Fifty-nine percent of “yes” voters said the appropriation would have no effect.
“It’s holding its lead, but it’s vulnerable. This is a negative drag,” Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said of the tax measure and high speed rail. “What it means is that it puts in play 10 to 12 percent of the 54 percent of voters who are supportive. I think that’s perilous for the Brown campaign.”
A spokesman for the Brown-backed Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act downplayed the impact that high-speed rail or other issues could have on the campaign.
“The initiative isn’t about the price of tea in China or anything else except preventing more cuts to schools, funding public safety and balancing the budget,” spokesman Dan Newman said. “That’s why voters and education advocates are strongly supporting the initiative.”
Voters approved $10 billion in borrowing for high-speed rail in November 2008. Since then, the project’s price tag has increased significantly, people along its planned route have gone to court to stop it, and a December Field Poll showed that almost two-thirds of voters want a re-vote on the project. Brown and Democratic leaders have remained supportive, though.
Opponents of the governor’s tax measure said the survey shows that voters see a contradiction between claims that the state is running out of money and putting billions into high-speed rail.
“Politicians have just increased spending by $6 billion for a bullet train we can’t afford and bloated pensions they refuse to fix,” said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for groups opposing Brown’s initiative. “Voters will not reward over-spending politicians by giving them more money to waste without any reform.”
Legislative leaders want to have a vote on the train money before lawmakers leave for a monthlong summer recess Friday. Republican legislators uniformly oppose the train. Some Democrats also are balking.
To read entire story, click here.