Poll: Californians Back Special Election, Tax Hikes For Wealthy

SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Most Californians support Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to solve the budget deficit through a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes, but they want the state’s richest residents to bear the brunt of tax increases, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 65 percent of likely voters are very concerned that public schools will suffer if deeper cuts are made to education to help close the state’s remaining $15.4 billion budget deficit.

The institute found that 56 percent of likely voters favor a special election giving the electorate the right to decide key budget questions, while 61 percent support Brown’s plan to balance the budget through a mix of cuts and taxes. But that does not mean voters would endorse the Democratic governor’s proposal entirely.

Brown wants to extend for five years increases to the personal income, sales and vehicle taxes. The tax increases are scheduled to expire this year, but renewing them would bring the state an additional $9.2 billion a year.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Comments:

Two-thirds of likely voters surveyed said they oppose raising personal-income taxes to maintain current funding for schools, and nearly as many oppose higher sales taxes to pay for schools. Instead, six in 10 favor raising income taxes on top earners to fund education.

Brown wanted to hold a special election in June to put the tax question to voters but has been unable to get the necessary Republican votes in the state Legislature to place such a measure on the ballot. He has signed bills that cut the $26.6 billion budget deficit by $11.2 billion by reducing spending and transferring money between various government funds.

Californians have consistently said they support spending more on schools but do not favor paying higher taxes for them, an ongoing source of frustration for policymakers.

“We have two choices: We can either complain about it, the inconsistency out there in the populace, or we can say that’s the way it is, and get the job done,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

On Wednesday, Steinberg released a package of four bills aimed at making California’s curriculum more relevant, having a broader evaluation system for schools than just standardized tests, and increasing teacher effectiveness.

Schools already receive more than 40 percent of the state’s annual general fund and were largely spared from deep cuts in the bills lawmakers approved last month. Even so, thousands of teachers have been laid off, class sizes increased and programs such as art and music eliminated in recent years as California struggled through a steep drop in tax revenue brought on by the recession.

Public schools are not likely to fare as well as they did under the governor’s original proposal when Brown releases his revised budget plan in mid-May.

Among the options Brown has said he is considering is one that would close the state’s deficit entirely through spending cuts, a proposal that would have severe consequences for kindergarten through 12th grade education.

Ever since the Public Policy Institute began asking respondents to evaluate the major areas of state spending — public schools, health and human services, higher education, and prisons — a majority has continually favored public school funding above other areas, institute president Mark Baldassare said.

“Californians’ support for maintaining K-12 spending remains strong. It is a significant factor for the state’s leaders to take into account in any proposals that they put before voters this year,” Baldassare said. “Residents are worried about the toll that reduced spending is having on the quality of K-12 public education, and public school parents are noticing the impact of state budget cuts on their children’s schools.”

The poll also found Brown’s approval rating among likely voters has climbed to 46 percent, from 34 percent in March. The Legislature’s approval rating continues to be poor, at just 14 percent among likely voters.

The poll surveyed 1,634 registered voters by phone from April 5 to April 19. It has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points for likely voters.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

More from Phil Matier
  • T C

    Isn’t the state lottery supposed to contribute to public schools, if so why don’t we just cut into the winnings a litte more to add to the funding of the schools?

  • genomega1

    Yes keep raising the taxes on the evil rich until the last rich guy leaves the state.
    School funding has been tripled in the last 15 years and school scores have improved by 0%.
    Makes perfect sense to me.

  • bob

    Until the Gov. and Dems can get serious and put all public unions and all their extravagant pay, perks and bloated retirement on the chopping block, they will just be kicking the can down the road, only to have to deal with the problem again. They need to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees, period.

  • ptown

    get rid of teachers union and I’d be happy to give another 5% in taxes for the schools. Until the union is under control or dissolved I wont vote to raise taxes by a dime…no way, no how.

  • unknown

    During the economic boom, the state and counties in CA were making money via real estate taxes and other taxes, where did that money go? Why wasn’t it put aside for a rainy day? It went to special interest programs that do absolutly nothing to improve society, it also went to larger government salaries and perks. We spend a tremendous amount of money on our schools, yet they are horrible, for every teacher there are at least 2 or 3 adminstrative personnel, this is unsustainable and unacceptable. Why should someone who worked hard for thier money, pay for someone who doesn not? How about a flat tax rate for ALL, this would equalize the current tax system, and all Americans would pay equally, isn’t that what this country is about? Equality? We need to stop blaming and start acting.

  • bob

    Stop all ILLEGAL immigration and the costs associated with it will help to right a sinking ship. All politicians who cater to or help LAW BREAKING immigrants need to be held accountable and be removed from office. Their time is well past due for not representing and protecting law abiding CITIZENS.

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