Editor of the California Health Report
A new independent poll released Wednesday suggests that a scaled back plan to increase taxes and dedicate all of the money to local government might be Gov. Jerry Brown’s best hope of finding new revenue to help balance the budget.
The poll by the Public Policy Institute of California finds that likely voters overwhelmingly want local government officials to have more say in how state money is spent in their communities.
The poll also shows that of all the major services, prisons are the ones voters least want to protect with their pocketbooks.
Finally, voters think they should be asked to weigh in on the tax plan, although many of those who want to vote apparently want to vote against it.
But the secret to overcoming that opposition might be to play on the voters’ preference for keeping government close to home.
Brown’s plan has always included a shift of about $6 billion in services, and the money to pay for them, from the state to local government.
A scaled back plan that raised only enough money to do that, and emphasized the shift in responsibility, might appeal to voters.
A big part of that proposed transfer is the idea of moving responsibility for thousands of prison inmates and parolees to local jails.
The overall plan, then, would shrink state government, slash the prison budget and empower local officials – all things that voters would like to do.
The poll, taken just after Brown released his revised budget in May, found that 76 percent of likely voters think voters should be asked to make some of the decisions about taxing and spending in the new budget. Just 21 percent of likely voters say the governor and the Legislature should reserve this power to themselves.
A large majority of voters (62 percent) also say they favor the broad outlines of Brown’s revised proposal, which would extend or re-impose higher taxes on income, cars, and sales to raise about $11 billion a year.
But that support craters when voters are asked about the specific taxes in his plan.
Only 46 percent of likely voters say they support those tax measures. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans and 53 percent of independents oppose the plan, while 49 percent of Democrats support it.
And even among those who say they favor a special election, the tax plan loses: 47 percent to 45 percent.
“Californians have favorable views of the governor’s revised budget plan and his special election idea,” Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, said in a statement released with the poll results. “Yet the fact that fewer than half support his tax and fee package raises questions about the outcome if the voters have their say.”
The survey found that only 18 percent of voters say they trust state government to do what is right always or most of the time. And 72 percent say state government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves rather than the general welfare of all Californians.
In contrast, about 35 percent of voters say they can trust local government to do what is right always or most of the time. And 78 percent of likely voters say they would prefer local officials rather than the state to have control over how state money is spent at the local level.
To see the entire poll, go to www.ppic.org