Originally posted at the Public Policy Institute of California.
By Linda Strean.

As interest groups work to turn their ideas into initiatives for next year’s statewide ballot, the September PPIC Statewide Survey examined Californians’ views in two areas that may be put before voters in 2016: taxes and public employee pension reform.

Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, and Dean Bonner, associate survey director, presented the findings at a briefing in Sacramento last week.

Among the survey findings:

  • Half of likely voters favor extending the tax increases in Proposition 30 temporarily, but just a third favor making them permanent.
  • There is bipartisan support for raising taxes on cigarette purchases.
  • A majority of likely voters favor changing Proposition 13 to tax commercial properties according to their current market value.
  • Solid majorities of Californians see public pension spending as a problem, and most think voters should weigh in on changes to the system.
  • Most likely voters favor placing new public employees in a defined contribution system, similar to a 401(k) plan, rather than a defined benefits system.

The survey shows that Californians give their state leaders—the governor, legislature, and their own legislators—high approval ratings at the close of the legislative session. Baldassare offered his explanation at the briefing: there was little drama around the budget, the economy’s going well, and very few respondents in the survey mentioned fiscal issues as the most important ones.

Congress, on the other hand fares far less well in Californians’ eyes. Its 17% rating is not only much lower than the ratings likely voters give their state leaders, it is much lower than those of President Obama, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Californians’ own representative in the US House.

“Congress is a government institution that needs work, according to most Californians,” Baldassare said.