California voters strongly support Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to raise taxes to stave off school cuts. But that doesn’t mean they’re confident the state is spending their money wisely.
Those were some of the findings of a new poll of California voters, as the Democratic governor touts his plan to allow state residents to vote in November on temporary tax hikes on sales and on wealthy individuals.
First, the good news for Brown: 68 percent of likely voters are in favor of his plan, according to a statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, released today.
But when they were presented with a detailed summary of Brown’s budget proposal of his idea of tax-hikes-for-schools, likely voters were more divided, with 48 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.
Asked how they preferred to deal with the the state’s budget gap—estimated at about $9 billion—40 percent of likely voters indicated they favor a mix of tax increases and cuts (Brown’s preferred approach). Forty-one percent say they favor mostly spending cuts, while 13 percent want mostly tax increases to deal with the problem.
At the same time, Californians also said the state could do more with what it has: 55 percent of likely voters said the state could cut spending and still provide the same level of services.
Yet there’s also an inclination to protect schools. Sixty-two percent of likely voters said they were willing to pay higher taxes to maintain K-12 services, while 46 percent said the same thing about higher education and 12 percent about prison/correction services.
If voters shoot down those tax hikes, Brown has warned that the state will have no choice but to pare an additional $5 billion from the budget, with a lot of it coming from education. Those cuts would come as many school districts say they’re already struggling because of lack of state aid.
Around the country, debates over taxes and budget cuts are likely to emerge in force heading into this fall’s elections.
Many states have made deep and unpopular cuts to state government, including schools, which elected officials—in many cases Republicans—have argued are necessary and justified. Democrats, unions, and local school district officials argue those cuts have gone too far. Statewide votes to raise taxes, particularly in a tough economy, can be a tough sell, as evidenced by recent events in Colorado.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.