Voters Want Brown's Special Election, Says Poll

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KQED/John Myers

For a new governor facing a mammoth state budget shortfall, a stubborn recession, and a polarized political world, Jerry Brown could probably use the good news that a brand new statewide poll offers.

The poll, just released, shows strong support for Brown's special statewide election on budget fixes, as well as reasonably strong support for his suggestion to erase California's deficit with a mix of cuts and taxes.

The Public Policy Institute of California finds 66% of voters surveyed like the idea of a special election to consider budget issues. That includes not just an overwhelming majority of Democrats (74%) but a majority (55%) of Republicans, too.

And the last subgroup is the one that will no doubt get attention, given the prevailing public position of legislative Republicans that allowing voters to weigh additional taxes is tantamount to breaking their 'no taxes' campaign pledge.

Pollster Mark Baldassare says what's really worth noting is how much higher those numbers are than polls before the 2009 special election (50% total support) and the 2005 special election (40% total support).

The PPIC poll has more nuggets sure to please the governor and his advisers. 58% of Californians polled said they are satisfied with Brown's plan to mix cuts and taxes in erasing a $25 billion shortfall. And even 53% told PPIC they support the Brown plan -- a narrow majority, but a sign that the public seems willing to give the new Guv the benefit of the doubt.

Republicans, though, aren't the only early critics of the governor's plan that fare poorly in the poll. PPIC reports that 63% of likely voters say they support Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones, using the money instead for other government services.

KQED/John Myers

That means a tough row to hoe, at least at the outset, for the mayors of California's largest cities, who traveled to the statehouse Wednesday to voice their opposition to the redevelopment elimination, in particular. Their message: Californians aren't that keen on it because they're uninformed.

"They don't understand the way it's used," said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin in a press conference Wednesday afternoon. "I guarantee you that every Californian understands the importance of job creation in this state."

Brown, in a chat with the press earlier in the day (one that seemed designed to preempt the mayors), said his message for local officials -- and, for that matter, everyone who dislikes his budget plan -- is simple: offer up a better way.

"We've got to find $25 billion. That's just the way it is," he said. "I would suspect that we're going to have more people, that the hallways are going to be crowded in the coming months with people who say, 'Please keep the money coming.'"

Interestingly, the poll found that only 47% of likely voters and 41% of all adults approve of the job Governor Brown is doing. A large number of those surveyed said they don't yet know how they feel about him -- a subset that carries perhaps the real message, says pollster Baldassare.

"They're sort of in a wait and see mode" about the new governor, he said. And Baldassare thinks that's because Brown has yet to really address the public, which makes next Monday evening's State of the State speech that much more important.

While the poll offers several more interesting nuggets (like an affirmation of the fiscal disconnect affecting the state's voters which we've discussed before), here's one more that helps explain why Governor Brown's budget not only protects K-12 schools (for the most part), but puts them front and center should the voters reject the $11 billion in tax extensions he wants on a June statewide ballot: 75% say they oppose any more K-12 cuts, and 71% say they'd pay higher taxes to spare those schools.

For now, Jerry Brown is forging a path that seems pretty close to the electorate. Whether he can stay there, of course, is another matter.

A web extra... some video I shot of Brown's comments on social services cuts and transferring some of those now in state prisons to county jails.

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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.
  • hello

    What do the mayors mean we don’t understand the way redevelopment money are used? We have pictures of how they are used: Now, isn’t this a great use of our funds?

  • WE the voters DO NOT want a special election

    This article does not speak for me. Im against any special election for this budget issue.

    If this passes I would suspect election fraud. To publish something like this suggest the people are open to being taxes more. Truth is we are Taxes Enough Already.