Polling Shows Californians Want a Mix of Spending Cuts and Revenue Increases11 min read

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With the State budget crisis continuing, a statewide poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released late last week, reported that 44% of Californians want a state budget solution that contains a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, while 33% prefer a budget plan that bridges the over $41 billion gap primarily with spending reductions. The poll also reported that large majorities of Californians however are in favor of certain tax and fee increases proposed by the Governor, but 70% of Californians support a spending cap on the Sate budget.

And with the stalemate on a budget solution continuing, the survey reports that for the first time in its polling, a majority (54%) of Californians now want budget reforms that include passage of a State budget that lowers the 2/3rds requirement to a 55% majority vote.

California faces a projected budget shortfall of over $41 billion by the end of the 2009-2010 State Budget year (June 30, 2010) unless action to increase revenues or cut spending (or both) are enacted before then. Tied to the crisis and more immediate is the State’s cash flow crisis, with the State not able to borrow money to pay its bills until a budget solution is enacted.

The crisis – the delay in resolving it and the actual solutions that are eventually passed to solve it – have tremendous impact on hundreds of thousands of children and adults with disabilities, the blind, people with mental health needs, low income seniors, their families, community organizations and workers who provide supports and services across California.

Budget Crisis Continues As February 1st Deadline Passes

The deadline of February 1st set by State Controller John Chiang as the date when he will be forced to begin delaying payments on a wide range of state programs and services, passed without any agreement yet by the Governor and the Legislature,

California now is deeper into the worst budget crisis in its history, with the State running out of cash to pay its bills, and the no action yet on solving the budget crisis

The initial delays in payments that Chiang – who is the State elected official in charge of paying the State’s bills – announced in January to begin taking effect February 1st if there was no budget solution enacted, will not have an immediate impact on people with disabilities, the blind, seniors or even CAPI (Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants), CalWORKS (the State’s welfare to work program) recipients. February checks for those people receiving those services or grants will be paid on time because either payments by the State are paid to the counties in advance, or in the case of the SSI/SSP, the federal government will still pay the full amount of the grant on time in February even if the State delays sending the State’s share of the grant. The Supplemental Security Income/State Supplemental Payment grants are critical for the lowest income persons with disabilities, the blind and low income seniors. See CDCAN website for details on what programs will be paid at www.cdcan.us

No Deal Yet – But Maybe Later This Week or Next

While discussions continued with the Governor and the four legislative leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (Democrat – Sacramento), Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (Democrat – Los Angeles), Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill (Republican – Fresno) and Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines (Republican – Clovis), neither house was in session since last week.

Neither house is scheduled to meet again until Monday afternoon (Assembly at noon and the State Senate at 2:00 PM, though no action on the State budget is scheduled or expected.). No floor votes on any budget deal has been scheduled or announced for this week.

Despite the delays and continued stalemate, State and legislative officials have expressed some hope that a budget solution will be coming soon – perhaps sometime later this week. No details of any budget agreement are available – though many advocates have expressed concern that a possible proposed change to the State Constitution implementing a “hard” spending cap – a provision that would place strict limits on the growth in State spending – could eventually be a part of a budget deal with Legislative Republicans and/or the Governor.

Advocates also have grown more concerned that a budget deal in the coming week or so could mean also more spending cuts, especially if the Legislature ends up passing not only a plan to solve the current budget year shortfall – but also pass at the same time the State Budget for 2009-2010, 5 months before the start of the new budget year.

Poll: 75% of Californians Say State Headed In Wrong Direction

Meanwhile, with the stalemate on the budget continuing, the PPIC Poll reports that a record-high 75% of Californians say the State is heading in the wrong direction, which is a significant increase from January 2008 when 54% felt that way and dramatically higher than in January 2007 when 37% of Californians took that view. Majorities of Californians hold that feeling of pessimism about the State, across party lines, every region in the State , and every demographic group.
Their pessimism about the State’s economy has also increased greatly with 77% of Californians who expect bad economic times in the year ahead, compared to 39% who felt that way in January 2007.

Majority of Californians Support Budget Reforms

With 75% of Californians saying the State’s budget situation is a big problem and on-going budget stalemates in the Legislature, support for budget reforms that Legislative Democrats want has grown. For the first time since the PPIC Poll began asking the question in 2003, a majority of Californians (54%) say it would be a good idea to replace the two-thirds requirement for passage of the budget in the State Legislature with a 55 percent majority instead.

Currently the State Constitution requires 2/3rds vote in both houses, which means 54 votes in the 80 member Assembly (controlled by 51 Democrats and 29 Republicans) and 27 votes in the 40 member State Senate (controlled by 24 Democrats and 15 Republicans with one vacancy caused by the resignation of Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas. That vacancy will eventually be filled by a Democrat in a special election)

That means to pass a State budget in both houses – assuming all Democrats vote for it – at least 3 Republican votes are needed in each house (2 in the State Senate after the special election that fills Ridley-Thomas’ seat).

Approval Ratings of Governor and Legislature Drop

Governor Schwarzenegger’s approval rating is at 40% and has changed little in recent months but is down 18 points since January 2007 and 10 points since January 2008. It now stands at the same level as in January 2006, just after the 2005 special election. Just 30% of Californians approve of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance specifically on State budget issues.

The Legislature however fares even worse with only 14% of Californians approve of its handling of the budget and taxes, and 15% approve of its handling of jobs and the economy.
Only 39% of Californians say the Governor and Legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot this year, with 53% saying they won’t.

By contrast, 79% of Californians agree that President Obama will be a strong and capable president, and 81% say that the president and the US Congress will be able to work together and accomplish a lot this year.

Californians however give the US Congress low ratings – though much higher than the California Legislature, with 37% approving the job they are doing and 56% disapproving

Californians Not Happy With Governor’s Proposed Budget

The poll reported that Californians are generally dissatisfied with the Governor’s over all proposed 2009-2010 State Budget and his proposed fixes for the current year budget with 59% dissatisfied, 34% satisfied. On some of the specifics of the Governor’s proposal the poll reported:

TAX AND FEE INCREASES

* Alcohol excise tax: Californians support overwhelmingly by 85% in favor to 13% opposed, the Governor’s proposal raising it by 5 cents per drink

* Sales Tax Increase: A much closer majority favor the Governor’s proposed 3 year temporary sales tax increase by 1.5 cents (52% in favor, 46% opposed).

* Sales Tax of Other Services: Californians don’t like this proposal by the Governor, with only 47% in favor and 50% opposed extending the state sales tax to include services such as vehicle repair, veterinary services, and tickets to sporting events.

* Income Tax Increases: The poll reports that while Californians appear willing to help reduce the budget deficit by increasing their own taxes, larger majorities are more eager to increase the taxes of others. 72% of Californians favor raising the state income tax rate paid by the wealthiest residents and 60% are in favor of raising the state taxes paid by corporations.

* State Lottery Money – Californians are opposed (55%) to borrowing money from future state lottery income to fill the budget gap, regardless of their political party (64% of Republicans, 55% of Democrats, 53% of independents are opposed.

* Vehicle license fee: A smaller, but still significant majority favor raising this fee by $12 – which was rolled back after the Governor’s election in 2003, with 58% in favor and 41% opposed. This fee increase was not proposed by the Governor in his proposed budget. – though Legislative Democrats have pushed for restoration of the fee.

STATE WORKER PAY

Cutting state employee compensation: Residents are divided (49% oppose, 45% favor). The governor has proposed requiring employees to take two unpaid days off a month, eliminating two holidays, and changing overtime rules.

BUDGET PRIORITIES

As they have said since January 2008, when the deficit was much smaller,

* 44% of Californians today favor closing the State budget gap with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases rather than primarily through cuts

* 33% think the budget gap needs to be closed primarily with spending cuts

* 8% of Californians believe the gap should be closed primarily through tax hikes or by borrowing money

* 7% believe the gap should be closed by running a deficit.

* The poll reported that 60% of Californians say that public education (Kindergarten through 12th grade) is the budget area they would most like to protect from budget cuts.

* 18% of Californians list health and human services as the priority they would most like to protect against budget reductions

* 12% say higher education (community colleges, state universities and the University of California) is their priority

* 6% of Californians say prisons and corrections should be protected from budget reductions.

* 70% support a strict limit on annual state spending increases (spending cap proposed by the Governor and Legislative Republicans) which is the highest level of support for this proposal since June 2003, when the poll first asked the question.

The poll also reported that the Governor’s proposal to save State money by shortening the school year: is opposed by a large majority of Californians, with 63% opposing it and only 35% favoring the proposal.

Californians recognize that the State budget situation is grim. Although they most frequently (42%) name jobs and the economy as the most important issue for the governor and legislature to work on, 25 percent of residents say the state budget is most important—the highest percentage since January 2004 (31%).

BUDGET REFORM

* Lowering Budget Vote Requirement: A protracted impasse over the state budget appears to have made Californians more supportive of reforms in the budget process, as evidenced by their increased support for changing the two-thirds threshold for budget passage to 55% (54% in favor today, 46% in June 2003).

* Lowering Vote for Approval of Special Taxes: More Californians also favor lowering the two-thirds vote requirement on local special taxes to 55 percent. Half (50%) say this is a good idea—the highest level of support since the survey first asked this question in June 2003— while 44 percent are opposed.

HOUSING

Half of Californians (52%) say the housing downturn will hurt their personal financial situation a great deal (30%) or somewhat (22%). Latinos (67%), renters (59%), independents (55%), and Democrats (53%) are more likely to hold this view than whites (45%), homeowners (48%), and Republicans (43%).

HOW SURVEY WAS CONDUCTED

The poll’s findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,001 California adult residents interviewed from January 13-20, 2009, with interviews conducted in English or Spanish. The sampling error for the total sample is plus or minus 2%. For the 1,621 registered voters it is plus or minus 2.5% and for the 1,277 likely voters, plus or minus 3%.

Public Policy Institute of California is a respected, private, nonprofit organization that provides independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. The organization does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.

The California Disability Community Action Network, is a non-partisan link to thousands of Californians with developmental and other disabilities, people with traumatic brain injuries, the Blind, the Deaf, their families, community organizations and providers, direct care, homecare and other workers, and other advocates to provide information on state (and eventually federal), local public policy issues.

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