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Cautious support for Governor Brown's budget proposal and tax initiative

by Damon Eris, published

Though there is strong support for individual aspects of Governor Jerry Brown's 2012-2013 budget proposal, Californians are more conflicted over the plan as a whole, according to a wide-ranging survey published by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Governor Brown's proposal features a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to tackle the state's nearly $10 billion budget deficit. The plan includes cuts to social services such as welfare, child care and Medi-Cal, as well as a tax initiative to provide more money for K-12 education funded by temporary increases of the state sales tax and the personal income taxes of those earning more than $250,000 a year. If the tax initiative is not passed by voters in November, it would trigger automatic cuts to public schools.

Overall, 50% of respondents stated that they favored the governor's plan while 43% said they opposed it. There was slightly less support for the proposal among likely voters, who favored it 48% to 46%. Those who favored the governor's budget included 61% of Democrats, 42% of Independents and 37% of Republicans.

Though a 40% plurality of those polled stated that, to tackle the budget deficit, they would support a plan which included a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, a 58% majority opposed cuts to social service programs such as welfare, child care and Medi-Cal. Predictably, the issue polarized Democrats and Republicans. 57% of GOP supporters said they favored cuts to social programs while 63% of Democrats said they oppose them. Independents were more or less evenly split.

However, there is broad support for the governor's tax initiative. 72% of all adults and 68% of likely voters said they were in favor of temporary increases in the state sales tax and the personal income tax of the state's highest earners to fund K-12 education. Support for the initiative is apparent across partisan lines, with 85% of Democrats, 65% of Independents and 53% of Republicans expressing approval of the proposal. Few Californians – just 20% – favor the automatic cuts to education spending that would result from the failure of the initiative.

Raising the top rate of the state income tax paid by those making over $250,000 a year is by far the most popular aspect of the plan, though it is opposed by 52% of Republicans. 74% of all adults and 68% of likely voters support raising taxes on the wealthiest Californians, including 85% of Democrats, 71% of Independents and 46% of Republicans.

The increase to the state sales tax is, predictably, the least popular feature of the governor's proposed initiative. 69% of all adults and 64% of likely voters said they opposed raising the state sales tax, including 74% of Republicans, 71% of Independents and 54% of Democrats.

Last week, the governor toured the state to rally support for the initiative and has already raised nearly $1.5 million in donations to support the proposal.  The Public Policy Institute of California survey of 2,002 individuals was conducted from January 10 to January 17. It has a sampling error of +/- 3.4%. The full survey and report can be found here.