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Poll Shows Californians Cooling To Governor Brown's Tax Initiative

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) - Even though most Californians think the budget remains a big problem, just a slim majority of likely voters say they support Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax initiative for the November ballot, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Using the Democratic governor's ballot title and summary for the first time, the poll found 52 percent of likely voters support temporarily raising the state sales tax and income tax on high-wage earners while 40 percent oppose doing so. Another 8 percent said they are undecided.

KCBS' Doug Sovern Reports:

That's a drop from past surveys, which found majority support for his plan to temporarily raise taxes. PPIC found Brown's proposal had 68 percent support in January, before the ballot language was finished.

Brown estimated that California faces a $9.2 billion deficit in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1, and has called for closing that shortfall with a near equal balance of spending cuts and the temporary tax increases he wants voters to approve in November. Most of the additional revenue from his tax initiative would go to K-12 education.

"A slim majority support Gov. Brown's proposed tax initiative," said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute. "Of those who plan to vote against it, most also say that their local governments have been affected a lot by recent state budget cuts and they would prefer to deal with the gap mainly through spending cuts."

Two-thirds of likely voters say their local government services have been affected a lot by recent cuts.

Brown's initiative would boost the statewide sales tax by half a cent for four years starting in January 2013. It also would raise the income tax for five years on those making $250,000 a year.

If voters reject Brown's tax initiative in November, the poll found 72 percent oppose his plan to automatically cut K-12 education.

But voters lack consensus on their preferred approach. While 45 percent of likely voters prefer Brown's mix of spending cuts and tax increases, 34 percent prefer mostly spending cuts and 11 percent prefer mostly tax increases.

The tax fight has not damaged the governor's own ratings much, the poll found. Brown's job approval rating of 46 percent has changed little since he returned to office in January 2011, but disapproval has grown from 20 percent when he took office to 38 percent in the latest survey. The state Legislature has a 21 percent approval rating among likely voters.

Budget woes, however, are hurting two high-profile infrastructure projects. Just 51 percent of likely voters say they would support an $11 billion water bond on the November ballot and only 43 percent of likely voters still support building a high-speed rail system.

Two measures on the June primary ballot - one on term limits and another for a cigarette tax - are enjoying strong majority support in the early stages of the campaign. Proposition 28, which would reduce the overall amount of time state lawmakers can serve from 14 years to 12 years, has 68 percent support among likely voters. And Proposition 29, which would impose a $1 tax on each pack of cigarettes to fund cancer research, has 67 percent support among likely voters, PPIC found.

"Although Prop. 29 may appear well intentioned, once voters take a closer look, they will see and reject the measure for what it truly is: another fundamentally flawed ballot-box boondoggle," said Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, which is opposing the initiative along with tobacco companies.

The Public Policy Institute interviewed 859 likely California voters by telephone from Feb. 21-28. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points for likely voters.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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