Poll shows opposition to Brown’s plan to cut First 5

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to raid $1 billion this year and $300 million every year thereafter from First 5, the state’s early childhood program, appears to be running into some serious opposition.

A poll showing that 62 percent of voters oppose the move is a first step in what could be a costly and damaging battle for Brown, who is seeking to place a measure on the ballot to extend income, sales and auto taxes as part of his budget plan to close a $25.4 billion deficit.

Brown wants to redirect First 5’s $1 billion reserve into the general fund, but must get voter signoff with a separate ballot measure since it is constitutionally protected.

Approved by voters in November 1998, Proposition 10 added a 50 cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes and a comparable tax on other tobacco products. It generates about $590 million annually, and has a $1 billion reserve fund.

The poll, conducted by Democratic polling firm Tulchin Research, just came out of the field Thursday and could spur deep-pocketed liberals to go all in to save the popular program, which focuses on the first five years of development for underprivileged children.

“We are very concerned about the fact that what has been proposed so far disproportionately hurts kids,” said Los Angeles-based political strategist Chad Griffin, who managed the campaign to pass Prop 10.

“We hope that this current proposal never makes it to the ballot but if it does we will do whatever it takes to defeat the measure in order to protect funding for California’s children, just as we did with every other attempt to cut Prop 10 funding.”

A battle over the Proposition 10 dollars could be a reprise of 2009, when voters turned back six ballot measures, including one to extend by two years taxes that the Legislature approved.

They voted two to one — 66 percent to 34 percent — against Proposition 1D, which would have siphoned $550 million from First 5 funding.

A costly ballot fight over early childhood funding could complicate Brown’s chances to get voter approval of tax extensions — if they make it to the ballot.

Donors have approached the team that defeated Proposition 1D — Griffin, Mark Armour (Barbara Boxer’s media consultant) and pollster Ben Tulchin – and commissioned them to do a poll to gauge public attitudes about the proposals.

Brown had hoped to avoid a well-funded opposition campaign, sidelining corporate interests, oil and tobacco companies by keeping corporate taxes out of the mix.

Those are the entities voters want taxed, according to the Tulchin poll. Nearly two thirds — 65 percent — said they would prefer to “raise taxes on those who can afford it, such as oil companies, tobacco companies, and the wealthy.”

In a polling memo, Tulchin research said the poll “clearly shows that California voters overwhelmingly support First 5 and want elected officials to pursue alternatives to cutting funding for early childhood development.”

The poll was conducted from Feb. 8-10 among 600 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus four points.

Steven Harmon

  • John W

    Don’t cut my program. Don’t do tax extensions. Just balance the budget!

  • Patti Lawrence

    I too agee the budget needs to be fixed but taking away a program that effects a large majority of CA children from 0-5 years is NOT the way to go. There is a trickle effect on this that the governor isnt seeing. 1/ This program hits the areas of CA that are most effected by the economy, our poorest of neighborhoods who utilize this program on a daily basis 2/ All the employees of First 5 across the state who will be laid off due to the lack of funds 3/ All the partner agencies that help First 5 get the word out about their various programs – more lay offs and less assistance to these impoverished areas 4/ Companies that sell materials (as their lively hood)that enable First 5 to have a successful program 5/ CA suppliers who manufactures these materials. The list goes on and on. This isnt about 1 billion dollars just sitting there. It is about a governor who hasn’t researched exactly what First 5 does on a daily basis to help California’s needest children. It is my opinion that taking this money will make the CA economy worse, not better

  • John W

    Patti Lawrence, I completely agree with you about this specific program. To me, this is investing in the future and falls into the “pay me now or pay me later” department. First Five is cheaper than $70k per year for inmates. I’m sure Jerry Brown gets it. But he’s trying to do what other recent governors have been unwilling to do — put together an honest balanced budget instead of kicking cans down the road. That requires draconian choices. If people don’t want their pet programs cut, they need to say what else to cut that isn’t already being chopped to the bone. Same thing for those who are against the tax extensions. To me, the clearest example of the painful tradeoff between investing in the future and not are entitlement programs that primarily benefit the elderly (exhorbitant public employee retirement benefits, SS and Medicare). I’m in that age group, and I’ve paid a fortune into both SS and Medicare. I’m not advocating their demise. Far from it. But, in my heart, I also know that every dollar that goes into those programs is a dollar not invested in the future, such as education and infrastructure.

  • ralph hoffmann

    What do y’ll think about raising the state gasoline tax from 18 cents/gal. to get the tax up to the same %
    of gasoline price it was in 1994, the last time CA gas tax was raised by a penny? Carpools have gone the way of hitchhiking, dropping by half since 1980. We have a huge waste of car & bus seats in the USA.

  • Elwood

    I am generally opposed to all tax increases.

    The only way I would consider a gas tax increase is if there were a guarantee that the proceeds could be used only for highways, not mass transit (a money sink which hardly anyone uses) or fur lined jock straps for transvestites or some other social program so favored by our legislators.

    The reason our roads are so crappy is that the legislature has stolen gas tax money for the general fund which goes to the sort of thing touched on above.

  • Myrna

    I love children and I volunteer helping needy children in my community.
    I appreciate what First 5 does for these kids but we have to educate parents who use these services. I see lots of families with 4 or up to 6 kids living at the mercy of organizations like First 5 or WIC among others.
    We need a program to educate these families about family planning and birth control. These parents need our help but we need to empower them in that respect.
    I don’t have children and won’t until I’m financially able to care for a child and is it too much to ask from other people?
    Does first 5 help parents with family planning? Budget cuts will affect many young children but unfortunately their parents are putting them in that situation.

  • John W


    I understand your points, and I also understand that the state budget can’t be fixed without making tough choices, including First 5. However, in response to your thoughts, I don’t see First 5 in altruistic terms. Whatever failings the parents may have that contribute to the situation, the fact is that all of us live with and pay for what happens if these kids get off to a bad start in the education system and end up later on welfare, in prison or whatever. So, I see First 5 in investment terms. Even so, everything has to be on the table to fix the budget.

  • Once again the State is trying to balance their budget at the Counties expense. These funds need to be kept at the local level.

  • Ingelore Weinberg

    Cutting services for the youngest of our citizens seems very expensive, even future financially. I see the Family Resource Centers and other programs First 5 sponsors, as most valuable.

  • Once again the State of California wants to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. I strongly oppose the Governors’ strategy. I also see the First Five Family Resources Centers and other First Five funded programs providing cost effective family support service that are extremely valuable.

  • Marie T.

    I will definatly be telling everyone to vote against this propostion. This money (cig. tobacco money) was set aside for the programs and low cost health insurance for 1st 5. So go take someone elses money and use it to balance your budget Jerry Brown or better yet the extra money you have left over from your campaign can be donated to the budget. If everyone paid taxes in this country besides the low and middle class people we would all be out of this mess. EVERYONE (yes this means you rich people) should pay taxes. No exemptions!!!

  • As a participating First 5 member agency, I can tell you that I am reaching those children first hand and treating their dental needs. Denti-cal, Access Dental, Healthy Families are not reaching those children in need. I go to their schools and preschools to treat. The very parents that are in need, are the ones that don’t have jobs that provide for time off. Since I am there at the schools, the child are there and mom and dad don’t have to take off work to get their children treated. Take away my service and the absenteeism will increase back up to were it used to be ten years ago to 5 days missed. We are now at 2 days missed due to dental pains, not treatments. Redistributing these funds will only cost the state, not save a penny.

  • ralph hoffmann

    If we don’t cut back on gasoline consumption soon, protests in the Mideast will shut down crude oil supply, and we will run out of gasoline by summer.
    Tazation is a way to voluntarily cut gas consumption, while helping to balance the CA budget.