Bloomberg News

Californians Want Vote on Brown Tax Plan by 2-to-1, Poll Shows

June 02, 2011

June 2 (Bloomberg) -- More than two-thirds of Californians want to vote on Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to balance the state budget by extending higher taxes and fees, even though most would reject the measures, a new poll shows.

About 68 percent of adults and 62 percent of likely voters said they favor a special election on Brown’s proposal to extend temporary tax increases and vehicle fees scheduled to expire by July 1, according to the Public Policy Institute of California poll. Yet only about 41 percent of adults and 46 percent of likely voters support the specific taxes and fees.

Brown asked lawmakers to put the $9.1 billion in tax and fee extensions directly before voters in the most populous state in June and was blocked by Republicans. The 73-year-old Democrat now wants to bring the matter to a vote in November or later, to avoid deep cuts to education and public safety.

“This shows the amount of work that the governor would have to do to get his tax and fee package approved,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the San Francisco-based institute, in a telephone interview. “Voters want to have a say -- they’re used to that. They’re not confident enough in the state government to let them do all the work and tell them what the consequences are going to be.”

Brown needs the support of at least four Republicans in the Legislature to put the plan on the ballot. In March, the governor broke off negotiations on a June ballot citing a lack of Republican support. Last week, Brown said talks have regained momentum as he has taken up demands for pension reform, a state spending cap and other measures. Brown again yesterday argued for the special election.

‘Time for Check-In’

“It’s time for a check-in,” Brown told reporters before a speech in Sacramento to the California State Association of Counties. “This state is very polarized between the two political parties. So when we have a logjam like this, it’s very helpful to get an outside arbiter. And I can’t think of a better arbiter then the people themselves.”

With an economy bigger than Russia’s, California has the lowest credit rating among U.S. states from Standard & Poor’s. Even with revenue projected to exceed forecasts by $6.6 billion through June 2012, the state won’t be able to borrow cash from Wall Street unless lawmakers agree to spending cuts that would be activated if the tax and fee extensions fail, Treasurer Bill Lockyer said in May.

Assembly Republicans continue to oppose both the tax and fee extensions and a special election, said Sabrina Lockhart, spokeswoman for Minority Leader Connie Conway of Tulare.

Raising Taxes

“No matter how you slice it, voters are strongly opposed to the governor’s tax increases,” Lockhart said by phone. “Raising taxes doesn’t solve the problem. Republicans have put forth an alternate plan that protects education without increasing the tax burden on hard-working families.”

Brown and Lockyer have said the Republican plan -- which would drain special funds for child-development and mental- health programs and cut the state payroll by 10 percent -- is impractical and would lead to long-term deficits.

The poll showed that 42 percent of adults approved of Brown’s job performance, up from 40 percent in April. About 24 percent said they disapproved, down from 29 percent in April.

The telephone survey of 2,005 adults, conducted May 17-24, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points for all adults and plus or minus 4.3 percentage points for likely voters.

--Editors: Pete Young, Mike Millard

To contact the reporters on this story: James Nash in Sacramento at jnash24@bloomberg.net; Michael Marois in Sacramento at mmarois@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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