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Politics

Poll Finds Most Californians Favor Saving Budget Surplus

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California Governor Jerry Brown. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

California Governor Jerry Brown. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — Most Californians favor paying down the state’s debts and building a reserve over additional spending for social services, according to a poll released Wednesday that provides a boost for Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan.

The Public Policy Institute of California found 55 percent support for greater frugality, compared with 39 percent who want to see restoration of at least some of the cuts to social services that were made as California struggled with a massive deficit.

Those findings are good news for Brown, whose $96.4 billion budget plan calls for debt reduction, maintains a $1.1 billion reserve fund, and modestly increases spending for K-12 and higher education, health and human services, and prisons. Brown’s efforts to hold the line on spending have run into opposition from fellow Democrats in the Legislature who want more spending on social services.

When asked specifically about Brown’s plan, the poll found 60 percent support.

“Strong majorities favor the governor’s cautious approach to the budget,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California. “And they overwhelmingly support his ideas for school financing.”

The Democratic-controlled Legislature faces a June 15 deadline to pass a spending plan. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has said he’d like to see more money set aside for welfare, health care and other safety net programs that were cut when the state’s fiscal situation was worse.

Brown persuaded voters last fall to increase the state sales tax and the income tax on wealthiest Californians. In return, he promised to hold the line on spending.

The poll found 61 percent of Californians believe the state budget situation is a big problem, and their support for Brown’s plan helps explain why his approval rating — 48 percent — is significantly higher than the Legislature’s 35 percent.

The survey of 1,704 California adults was conducted May 14-20. Interviews were done in English and Spanish using landlines and cellphones. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

On other issues, the poll found 57 percent believe public policy created by voters through ballot initiatives is probably better than what the Legislature and governor can do. However, 70 percent believe there are now too many propositions each election, and even more — 80 percent — think the wording of the questions is too complicated.

The poll also found that 57 percent of Californians believe global warming will “pose a serious threat” to their way of life within their lifetime. That’s up from 45 percent a decade ago.

Respondents were divided over whether the state is on the right track (46 percent) or the wrong track (48 percent).

Regionally, San Franciscans were the most optimistic about the state, with 54 percent of residents polled saying the state is moving in the right direction. Residents of the Central Valley, Orange County and San Diego voiced the most dissatisfaction, with 56 percent of each region saying the state is headed in the wrong direction.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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