In DC We Trust... Not Sacramento

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Californians sure are caught up in this hope and change vibe in politics. But only when it applies to what's happening in the nation's capital, not the state capital.

That's one of the conclusions to draw from tonight's new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. Most striking: 79% of those surveyed believe Barack Obama will be a "strong and capable president." And lest you think that's being driven by the state's majority Democrats, the poll found 66% of Republicans feel the same way.

73% say they think the nation will unite behind the man from Illinois; only 44% said the same about his predecessor, the man from Texas, in 2001.

But asked about the men and women in charge of state government, and things get ugly. Governor Schwarzenegger's job approval rating is down to 40% in the new PPIC poll, and just 30% on specifically his handling of jobs and the economy. In January 2007, when he began his second term, Schwarzenegger's overall approval rating stood at 58%.

21% approval for the Legislature overall; a measly 15% approve their work on jobs and the economy.

Worse still, 75% think the state is headed in the wrong direction, and most think the state budget fiasco is a big deal. And how would they solve it? A mix of spending cuts and tax increases was the most picked choice (44%). Also worth noting: while K-12 education was most chosen as the part of the budget to protect from the axe, health and human services was second among all subgroups... again, including Republicans. Least desired to be protected by all groups: prison spending.

The governor's proposal to temporarily increase the state sales tax to help solve the problem is okay with 52% of those surveyed; his call to possibly shorten the school year to save money was roundly rejected by 63%.

And the result that will no doubt get the tongues wagging among those who hate the state's supermajority budget vote requirement: 54% of respondents favor reducing it to a 55% vote in each house of the Legislature, an eight point uptick since 2003.

Schwarzenegger was asked about that today during his appearance at the Sacramento Press Club (yes, we get the polls early and thus ask about it before we can ever actually report the results). His response? Fix other things, from redistricting to the polarized political primary system, first. "I think it's not the two-thirds vote that is the problem, I think that the political system that we have in place is really the problem," he said.

It's worth noting that PPIC's poll does not ask whether voters would change the requirement of a supermajority vote on tax increases. Remember that without this provision of Proposition 13 being changed, the current $40 billion budget mess still would need GOP support if the solution includes taxes... that is, unless the Democratic no-GOP-tax plan was resurrected.

And before those on the left get too excited about the willingness to consider scrapping the supermajority budget vote, they should note another PPIC poll finding: 70% say they support a strict limit on annual state spending increases. That sounds like a new spending cap... one of the issues being demanded by Republican legislators.

If you're looking for the voters to figure this one out, it would seem, keep on looking.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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