Support for Cuts & Taxes Drops to 40%

JUNE 2, 2011

By WAYNE LUSVARDI

There is a mix of old news and new news in the results of a new opinion poll about the budget by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The poll found exactly the same result as a poll conducted last month: only 9 percent of the public indicates it favors tax increases to solve the state budget deficit.  Put the other way around, 81 percent do not favor tax increases only.  But that wasn’t “news.”

Given a 3 percent margin of statistical error in the new poll, there is mostly no change in public opinion, even after Gov. Jerry Brown’s May Revise Budget where he reported $6.6 billion in increased tax revenues (mainly from one-time capital gains taxes).  Roughly speaking, 33 percent still favor spending cuts only and 9 percent favor tax increases only.  Neither was this “news.”

The real news is that went unreported is that there is a 10 to 13 percentage-point swing in public opinion against a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

Here are the results of last month’s poll by the LA Times-USC Dornsife School of Public Policy Poll and the current Public Policy Institute of California poll:

10. How do you prefer to deal with the State budget deficit? USC-Dornsife Poll 

April 2011

Public Policy Institute Poll = May 2011 Change after 3 percent error factor
Spending cuts 33 percent 36 percent No Change
Tax increases 9 percent 9 percent No Change
Mix of spending and tax increases 53 percent 40 percent drop of 10-to-13 percentage points
OK to borrow and run a deficit Not asked 8 percent Not applicable
Don’t know, other 4 percent 7 percent Not applicable
Margin of error 3.6 percent

.

News Spin

But a check of headlines and content of articles in statewide newspapers failed to pick up on this declining support for a budget package of cut and taxes.

* Dan Walters — New PPIC Poll Finds Contradictory Attitudes

* Los Angeles Times — Voter Support for Taxes Still Sags Below 50 percent

* San Francisco Chronicle — California Voters Back Brown on Tax Ballot

According to the new PPIC poll, there is no majority support for increases to personal income tax (only 38 percent favor), state sales tax (only 25 percent favor), or vehicle license fees (only 34 percent favor).

But there is support (62 percent favor) for cuts to state prisons.  The new PPIC poll was probably conducted before the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week that California had to reduce its prison population in two years or up to 46,000 felons might have to be released.  This will likely mean that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature will just kick the can down the road to county governments to raise taxes for new prisons or jails, or send prisoners out of state or to federal prisons.

Against Waste

Interestingly, 54 percent of those polled answered that they thought state government wastes “a lot” of taxes.  The issue of funding for luxury public goods and services, such as $18 billion for waterless water bonds, $3 billion for duplicate stem cell research, and a $9.95 billion bond for a high speed rail project were customarily not addressed in the opinion poll.

Another missing question in the poll was whether voters would support K-12 public school cuts of “categorical” jobs and programs as recommended by the State Legislative Analyst, which could save up to $7.4 billion.  Such a cut would not entail lay-offs any core schoolteachers or administrators.

There still is no majority support for tax increases. But there is majority support for tax cuts to prisons. And the previous majority support (53 percent) for a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts has decreased to 40 percent.

Californians’ opinions on tax increases have stabilized. People don’t want them.

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