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.