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Poll finds slim margin for Brown tax initiative

Posted: September 20, 2012 7:00 a.m.
Updated: September 20, 2012 7:00 a.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown speaksafter he campaigned supporting Proposition 30 at James Lick Middle School in San Francisco on Aug. 22.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Only about half of likely California voters support Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot initiative to temporarily raise sales and income taxes, presenting a significant challenge as he seeks to win over a reluctant public before the November election, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Public Policy Institute of California survey also found that another initiative that would dedicate revenue from a broad income tax increase to public schools is still lagging, the poll found.

PPIC found that 52 percent of likely voters said they support the governor's Proposition 30, with 40 percent opposed and 8 percent undecided. The initiative would raise income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year for seven years and increase the statewide sales tax by a quarter cent for four years to help ease the state budget crisis and avoid deep cuts to public schools and universities.

Proposition 38, funded by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger, would increase California income taxes on a sliding scale. It has 45 percent support among likely voters, with 45 percent opposed and 11 percent undecided. That initiative would extend income tax increases into lower brackets but avoid the state education bureaucracy by sending the additional revenue directly to schools and early childhood programs.

Munger has so far contributed nearly $25 million to the campaign, which is backed by the California state PTA.

The results for Brown's initiative represent a slight decline since May, when a PPIC study found Proposition 30 had 56 percent support among likely voters with 38 percent opposed. Women, minorities and people in lower-income households appear more likely than other voters to support both tax initiatives, the poll found.

"Turnout will be an important ingredient in determining the November outcome of the two tax measures since these initiatives have much stronger support among young, Latino and women voters, and narrow majorities of independent voters are favoring both measures today," PPIC President Mark Baldassare said.

While the initiatives to raise taxes have only narrow support, three-quarters of likely voters said they oppose the $6 billion in automatic spending cuts approved by the state Legislature that would take effect if Proposition 30 does not pass.

Brown's campaign remained optimistic, calling support for the tax increase "strong and steady."

"We expect to see 'yes' votes grow through the election, as we mount a vigorous campaign with the clear message that only Prop. 30 stops another $6 billion in cuts to our schools this year, prevents steep tuition hikes for college students and their families, and invests billons more in our classrooms," campaign strategist Sean Clegg said in a written statement.

Joe Arellano, spokesman for Yes on 38, said the campaign expects support to rise once its advertising begins in earnest.

The Public Policy Institute survey also found that Proposition 32, which would prohibit the automatic deduction of political contributions from employee paychecks, has support of just 42 percent of likely voters, with 49 percent opposed. Unions are expected to spend millions fighting the initiative, which would severely limit their ability to raise money for political campaigns.

Proposition 32 would prohibit unions, corporations and government contractors from using money from payroll deductions for political purposes, but it does not limit the tens of millions of dollars that businesses and the wealthy pour into political action committees.

The survey also asked respondents about their feelings on the death penalty, although it did not specifically ask about Proposition 34, the November ballot initiative that would repeal the death penalty in California. About half of likely voters said they support life imprisonment with no possibility of parole while 42 percent support death as the maximum penalty.

The Public Policy Institute interviewed 2,003 California adults from September 9-16. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points for the 995 likely voters surveyed.



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