Eight Weeks Out, Tough Odds

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If there is any silver lining in a new public poll for supporters of the six budget related measures on the May 19 ballot, maybe it's this: fewer than one in five likely voters are "very closely" following news about the special election.

In other words, maybe there's still time.

But that's about it on the good news front from the new Public Policy Institute of California survey. There appear to be some real concerns out there about Propositions 1A through 1E. (Proposition 1F, a no-brainer that bans lawmaker pay hikes in deficit years, is wildly -- and unsurprisingly -- popular.)

The two marquis measures in this package of proposals placed on the ballot by the Legislature, and crafted largely behind closed doors in the wee hours, are the two most in trouble.

The spending cap and reserve fund that would created by Proposition 1A only garnered support from 39% of those surveyed by PPIC. And the plan to borrow $5 billion from the California Lottery -- Proposition 1C -- is only favored at this point by 37% of those surveyed. Prop 1C has actually reached the 50% level of those who say they would vote no... which seems to make it even harder to pass this high-value element of the $41 billion budget deal struck in February.

What also seems striking is that the numbers of undecided voters seem to be going down, with no more than 16% of those surveyed on any of the measures putting themselves into that category.

Other than the Prop 1F "motherhood" measure (as in, "it's like asking someone are you in favor of motherhood"), Proposition 1D and Proposition 1E come in with the highest level of support at 48% and 47%, respectively. That these would be more popular isn't very surprising, when you consider that both are largely a reshuffling of existing government revenues, and may seem to many voters to be a less painful way of solving budget woes.

Proposition 1B, a costly $9.3 billion guarantee of supplemental cash for public schools, sits at 44% support in the PPIC poll. It's going to be the main focus of the politically powerful California Teachers Association, which has already started pumping cash into a campaign account for the proposal.

But it's Prop 1A, the spending cap/"rainy day fund" proposal, that is the one on which Governor Schwarzenegger and his allies are focusing most of their energies. Wednesday was also the day that the most organized opposition to the measure made its presence known. That anti-Prop 1A coalition is being led by Jon Coupal and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, 2003 recall proponent Ted Costa, and Peter Foy, a Ventura County supervisor who conservatives are talking up as a possible 2010 gubernatorial darkhorse.

How much money the anti-1A campaign can raise to get their message out remains to be seen, even though the Schwarzenegger led effort is likely to be better funded. But the PPIC poll makes it clear that voters are leery of these measures. Maybe that's influenced by the fact that 71% of those surveyed think California is headed in the wrong direction and that 75% also think the state budget mess is a "big problem."

That last number is worth considering a moment; after all, it suggests that there are a lot of Californians who clearly have the budget crisis on their radar but nonetheless think these measures are the wrong solution.

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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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