Recent Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll results revealed mixed news for Governor Brown as support for his proposed tax initiative has declined in recent months, although the proposal still retains a majority backing of 59 percent. The governor’s tax initiative, which would increase the sales tax by a quarter-cent and boost the income tax rates of Californians earning more than $250,000 per year, has been hailed as a difficult but necessary step towards addressing the deficit.
The polls also indicate that voter approval of Brown’s performance have remained steady at 49 percent—the same amount polled in March. The results come as a surprise to some, considering the fact that they were administered a few days after Brown revealed that he underestimated the state’s deficit by nearly $7 billion (from $9.2 billion to $15.7 billion). Proposition 29, which would entail a $1 tax increase on cigarettes, and a cut to state employee work hours were among the other polled items that received a majority of support.
“Voters have indicated a willingness to pay more for public schools and public safety. But they are also getting skeptical about whether their elected representatives can be trusted to spend their money wisely,” stated Director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC Dan Schnur in a press release by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Schnur’s comment reflects the trend that ensued when poll respondents were presented with a negative presentation of Brown’s performance. When provided with a negative wording that mentioned financial mismanagement, respondents took the state’s current $16 billion deficit as a sign of Brown’s ineptitude—as opposed to an indication that, as the positive version of the questioned stated, it was “more important than ever to support Governor Brown’s proposal to temporarily increase [taxes].”
While the increase in the deficit has not taken a toll on Brown’s support, the number of respondents who disapproved of Brown’s performance increased. The disapproval rates are currently at 39 percent, an increase of four percent from March. This outcome was evident in a lower number of respondents who were unsure of their opinion of Brown’s performance–a rate that was 16 percent in March and 12 percent in the most recent May polls.
Meanwhile, a majority of respondents (by a two-to-one margin) supported the component of Brown’s revised May budget that would reduce state employees’ work hours. However, this amount decreased when respondents were told that the cut in work hours would result in state offices only being open four days a week.
A majority of respondents also favored Proposition 29’s tax increase on cigarette purchases, with 62 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed to the tax. Advocates of Proposition 29 have pointed out that the state would gain $850 million per year to pay for cancer research and promote better enforcement of illegal cigarette sales. However, a $40-million campaign against Proposition 29 has denounced the initiative for failing to guarantee that the research funds would stay in California and that the bill would create an unaccountable bureaucracy.