Poll: More back Brown’s tax plan than Munger’s

Almost two-thirds of California’s likely voters favor raising income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for public schools, but most oppose increasing the state sales tax for the same purpose, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Both are elements of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot measure for this November.

The PPIC poll found 65 percent of likely voters favor raising the top rate of state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians, while 34 percent oppose it. But only 46 percent support raising the state sales tax while 52 percent oppose that.

When read the ballot title and a brief summary of Brown’s proposed measure, 54 percent of likely voters say they would vote for it while 39 percent would vote against it – about the same numbers as were found last month. Unsurprisingly, there’s a sharp partisan divide – 75 percent of Democrats support it, 65 percent of Republicans oppose it – but independents favor it 53 percent to 43 percent. Public school parents support it widely: 60 percent yes, 36 percent no.

Brown has said that if voters reject his measure, there’ll be automatic budget cuts for public schools; 78 percent of likely voters oppose such cuts.

Another proposed measure, bankrolled by Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on most Californians. The poll found 57 percent of likely voters oppose this, with 40 percent in support.

Brown’s own approval rating is holding steady, the poll shows: 47 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, 40 percent disapprove and 12 percent don’t know, similar to one year ago (46 percent approval, 32 percent disapproval, 21 percent don’t know). And the Legislature remains unloved: Only 15 percent of likely voters approve of its job performance, while only 10 percent approve of its handling of K-12 education.

Lots more slicing and dicing, after the jump…

Here’s the partisan breakdown: Most Democrats favor increasing the state income tax on high earners (89 percent), the state sales tax (64 percent), and personal income taxes overall (56 percent). Most independents favor raising income taxes on the wealthy (63 percent), but not the state sales tax (43 percent) or personal income tax (42 percent). And support is low among Republicans for raising any of these taxes to fund schools: 36 percent support higher taxes on the wealthy, 25 percent support a state sales tax increase, and 21 percent support a broad personal income tax increase.

Few seem happy with the status quo: 72 percent of likely voters say the state budget is a big problem for public education; 67 percent agree the quality of public education is a big problem; and 59 percent say the current level of state funding for their local public schools is inadequate. Asked to choose among the four main areas of state spending, 58 percent say K-12 education is the area they most want to protect from cuts; 17 percent said higher education, 15 percent said health and human services, and 7 percent said state prisons.

Most are worried about what has happened already: 67 percent say they’re very concerned about schools laying off teachers, and 62 percent are very concerned about having fewer days of school instruction. Asked about the impact of budget cuts on their schools, 36 percent of public school parents say their schools have been affected a lot while 45 percent say they’ve been affected somewhat.

But local tax increases seem like a non-starter. Asked whether they would vote yes on a bond measure to pay for construction projects for their local school district, 53 percent say they would vote yes — short of the 55 percent threshold needed to pass such a measure. If there were a local ballot measure that increased local parcel taxes to benefit schools, 51 percent would vote yes; this falls short of the two-thirds’ approval required for passage of a parcel tax.

And only 6 percent of likely voters say more funding alone will bring significant improvement in public schools’ quality; 48 percent say using money more wisely will significantly improve schools, and 46 percent say both are needed.

Brown also proposes giving school districts more flexibility in deciding how to spend state funds, and giving more state funds to districts with more low-income or English-learner students.

The PPIC poll found likely voters of all parties, regions and demographics favor putting more control in the hands of districts and schools rather than the state. But while 79 percent of likely voters agree schools in the state’s poorer areas have fewer resources, only 54 percent say new funding should be targeted to those areas and only 40 percent favor targeting it to districts with more English learners.

PPIC surveyed 2,005 California adults from April 3 through 10, with a margin of error of 3.4-percentage points. The error margin for the 1,310 registered voters was 3.7 points; for the 823 likely voters, 4.3 points; and for the 620 public-school parents, 6.2 points.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Bruce R. Peterson Lafayette

    There was an old song that had the line; “If you don’t give me the deed to your ranch, I’ll throw you on the railroad tracks”. Now we have Gov. Brown saying; “If you don’t vote your taxes higher, I’ll cut education funding”. Why doesn’t he say he’ll cut high speed rail funding? How about cutting funding for his Delta Bypass project? How about cutting the unpopular State legislators pay? Never! It’s always schools.

  • Publius

    Spending more money on education will not fix the problem. Brown and Munger can tax the wealthy all they want and Ca. would still have an underperforming school system. Parent participation is the key to all learning and the first step of a childs education should be a parent’s ability to choose where they want their children to go to school. Remove the monopoly of State Education and allow parents the right to choose. Government monolopies have successfully driven up the price of education and at the same time driven down the quality.

    The party line that higher taxes will cure all is simply not true.

    What about pension reform? The party of organized labor conveniently ignores the elephant in the room and will hold our kids hostage to feed union coffers and Democratic campaign funds.The people of this state are once again being blackmailed by big government and big labor.

  • Mcdez

    People should be aware that the governor’s income and sales tax will not bring any additional money to schools. The revenue that goes to schools is money that has previously been taken from schools. He’s paying back a debt. Paying back a debt to schools is not the same as giving money to schools. With the governor’s proposal, our per pupil spending will remain flat — if we’re lucky.

    Our Children, Our Future is the only initiative that actually provides dollars over and above the Prop 98 minimum. This PTA/Molly Munger initiative raises income tax rates on a sliding scale: from 4/10 of 1% on the lowest earners to 2.2% on multi-millionaires. Most people earning under $50,000 won’t pay any more taxes. There is no sales tax.

    For 12 years, the measure will raise $10 billion a year to invest directly in public schools and early education programs. For the first four years, 30% of the new revenue will help California pay down education-bond debt. For the remaining eight years, all the money goes to education: 85% to K-12 schools and 15% to early childhood education. This is money that does not get lumped into the general fund, but instead goes directly to school sites with local parent, teacher and community input — mandated. It also mandates strict oversight and accountability measures. Where was the money spent? What were the outcomes?

    This money cannot be used to increase current teacher salaries or benefits and puts a 1% cap on administrative costs. This money can be spent to improve students’ academic performance, graduation rates, and vocational, career, college and life readiness by funding: 1. instruction in the arts, physical education, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, history, civics, financial literacy, English and foreign languages, and technical, vocational or career education; 2. smaller class sizes; 3. more counselors, librarians, school nurses and other support staff at the school site; 4. extended learning time through longer school days or longer school years, summer school, preschool, after school enrichment programs and tutoring; 5. additional social and academic support for English language learners, low income students and students with special needs; 6. alternative education models that build students’ capacity for critical thinking and creativity; and 7. more communication and engagement with parents as true partners with schools in helping all children succeed.

    California State PTA was very careful about which tax initiative to support. Our Children, Our Future, won — hands down.

  • JohnW

    It comes as a real surprise that we are for the tax increase we don’t have to pay and against the one we do have to pay. Who would’ve guessed?

  • Elwood

    “The people of this state are once again being blackmailed by big government and big labor.”

    So, what else is new?

  • Publius


    Mandates and more spending will fail our children. The current system is broken and all of your grand tax schemes and government mandates will only make it worse. Funding and oversight are not the problems. Why can private schools and charters operate with less or equal funds and out produce public schools? Awake from your malaise and truthfully answer the question. The difference is choice. The Munger Plan will only feed the beast and create more layers of bureaucracy.

    I agree with your 7th point that, “more communication and engagement with parents as true partners with schools in helping all children succeed”, but I fail to see how more money will achieve this. How can you preach to partner with a parent when the parents do not have the right to choose where they want thier kids to go to school.

    Under Browns tax proposal or Munger’s nothing will change. We need to reform, not propagate the current system. Break the state monopoly, bust the Union, allow schools to compete, let the poor escape failing schools, stop holding our kids hostage to a broken system. Like so many other Democrat supported redistribution ideas this one will only make the poor poorer and the rich not as rich.

  • JohnW

    Re: #6

    “Why can private schools and charters operate with less or equal funds and out produce public schools?”

    Many reasons, of course.

    For one thing, there are many public schools right here in the Bay Area that easily perform as well as top private and charter schools.

    There are some excellent charter schools, but the record is very mixed.

    Private schools and charter schools get to hand pick their students and don’t have to deal with special needs kids. Public schools have the mission of universal k-12 education.

    Public schools can also pay teachers somewhat less, because what teacher wouldn’t rather teach in a school with optimized learning environment and resources, even if the pay is a bit less? If we junked all the public schools and went 100% to a voucher-based private school system, that system would face all the challenges that public schools currently face.

    I’m not dismissing factors such as tenure, undifferentiated pay structures, bloated departments of education, parental involvement or lack thereof. But it’s not as simple as “private good, public evil.”

  • Bruce R. Peterson Lafayette

    I keep hearing about education over the internet. Students learn more faster & like it better. They can even stay home.

  • Wendy Lack

    Interesting reading about why Brown’s tax proposal will pay for pensions, not education:


  • Elwood

    @ #9

    Makes me proud to live in California, a wholly owned subsidiary of the public employee unions.

    Something needs to change.


  • JohnW

    You would think Sacramento would at least pretend they were working on serious pension reform so as to get more voter support for the taxes.