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Poll: Brown, Props 1 & 2 look good; 45 & 46 lagging

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election and the ballot measures he supports are looking good, while voters aren’t sure about two other, more contentious measures, according to the Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll.

The survey, administered by the survey research firm YouGov from Oct. 3-17, sampled 1,273 California adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.65 percent for the full sample.

“The poll’s numbers reflect a California election that contains little in the way of political intrigue or public enthusiasm,” Hoover fellow Bill Whalen, a California politics expert who leads question development for the Golden State Poll, said in a news release. “However, there are signs of trouble on the horizon. The public isn’t sold on some contentious tax and social issues.”

Brown leads Republican challenger Neel Kashkari 48 percent to 31 percent among registered voters – a 17-point gap not unlike the average of four other recent polls. Yet Brown, seeking an unprecedented fourth term, doesn’t achieve majority support in this poll.

43 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election said strengthening California’s economy should be the governor’s top priority next year; 17 percent said balancing the state’s budget should be the top priority; 16 percent said improving the state’s public education system should be the top priority; 10 percent reducing the state’s long-term debt burden should take precedence; 7 percent said improving roads, bridges and public transportation is most important; and 6 percent said protecting the environment is most important.

Voters planning to cast ballots in this election are split on what to do with Proposition 30, Brown’s 2012 ballot measure that temporarily raised income taxes on the rich and increased sales taxes by a quarter-cent. The poll found 21 percent want it made permanent; 9 percent would extend it for six to 10 years beyond its scheduled expiration in 2018; 17 percent would extended it for one to five years; 17 percent would let it expire; and 29 percent would repeal it as soon as possible, while 8 percent weren’t sure.

Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond, is supported by 52 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election and opposed by 22 percent, with 26 percent unsure.

Proposition 2, to beef up the state budget’s “rainy day” reserve fund, is supported by 47 percent and opposed by 19 percent, with 34 percent unsure.

Proposition 45, to grant the insurance commissioner authority to reject unreasonable health insurance rate hikes, is supported by 42 percent and opposed by 30 percent, with 29 percent unsure.

Proposition 46 – to raise the cap on non-economic medical malpractice lawsuit damages, require drug testing of doctors, and require use of a state database to avoid “doctor shopping” by drug abusers – is supported by 34 percent and opposed by 37 percent, with 30 percent unsure.

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Lawmakers sing ‘Kum-Ba-Yah’ on rainy-day fund

It’s a rare “Kum-Ba-Yah” day under the State Capitol dome, as the Legislature in unanimously approved a new ballot measure to modify the state budget’s rainy-day fund.

The proposal voters will consider in November would double the reserve’s size from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund; the state would set aside 1.5 percent of the general fund each year, and supplement that with extra capital-gains revenue. For the next 15 years, half of what’s set aside would help pay down the state’s debt and unfunded liabilities, including public employee pensions and retiree health care.

The votes were 75-0 in the Assembly and 36-0 in the state Senate.

From Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“This compromise agreement between legislative leaders of both parties and the Governor balances the needs of fiscal stability and planning for the future. It will help attenuate cuts in vital services during economic downturns, aggressively pay down state liabilities and indebtedness, and still maintain the room that we need for investing in California and its people. This is a formula we should embrace not only in the future, but also for the 2014-15 State Budget we’re negotiating now.”

“We always must have a balance. I have long believed we should approach budgeting in a way people can readily understand; one-third of our excess revenue to pay down debt, one-third to put away for a ‘rainy day,’ and one-third left to invest and reinvest in California and its people. By using this agreement as our approach in debating the upcoming budget, we can make sure there is room left for some investment to meet the needs of our children and families who are still struggling to recover from the cuts we were forced to make during the recession.”

From Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“I think it demonstrates to the people of California that when you have a robust bipartisan discussion, you can make things better because we all bring something to the table… To that end, we wanted to make sure that it’s truly a rainy day fund, and not an everyday fund.”

From Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

“Following today’s bipartisan vote in the California State Senate, I am pleased that legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle voted to affirm this important Rainy Day Fund proposal that seeks to ensure greater long term economic security for California. Our state can and should save for the future so that we can minimize the potential for future drastic cuts to education, health, human services and other critical programs, while also paying down debt. This new reserve fund, if approved by voters, will be an important step to help secure California’s economic future.”

“California’s economy is one of the largest in the world and is certainly an important driving force within the United States. It makes sense for state elected officials to support efforts that will continue to encourage California’s growth and future economic strength. Just as families must prepare for unexpected job losses or expenses, so too must the state prudently prepare for if and when another recession occurs.”

From Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford:

“This is exactly why I came to Sacramento – to work on bipartisan measures that benefit the people of California. I hope this is the first of many historic agreements. Let this be an example of how we can work across the aisle on a water bond.”

From Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“This is a strong proposal for the voters to consider, and I am very proud of the work we have done on a bipartisan basis to take another monumental step forward in making California a model for fiscal responsibility across the country. By putting a genuine Rainy Day Fund before the voters, we can break the bad habits of the past where we overspend in good years and overcut in tough years, and this measure will ensure that we maintain the health of California’s finances in the years to come.”

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Brown calls special session on Rainy Day Fund

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the “Rainy Day Fund” measure on November’s ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

“We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund,” Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24.

Voters enacted the current Rainy Day Fund in 2004 by approving Proposition 58, which directs 3 percent of annual revenues into the Budget Stabilization Account. The current system has no restriction on when funds can be withdrawn and requires deposits even in deficit years, unless the law is suspended.

Lawmakers in 2010 approved the proposal on the November 2014 ballot – ACA 4, which would raise the fund’s cap from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund, among other things. But Brown said Wednesday it doesn’t address the volatility of capital gains revenue, doesn’t provide a reserve for schools to help cushion future downturns, and limits California’s ability to pay down long-term liabilities.

Brown in January proposed changes including increasing deposits when the state has spikes in capital gains revenue; allowing supplemental payments to speed up the state’s payoff of its debts and liabilities; limiting withdrawals to ensure the state doesn’t drain too much at the start of a downturn; and creating a Proposition 98 reserve, after school funding is fully restored to pre-recession levels, to smooth school spending and avoid future cuts.

UPDATE @ 11:15 A.M.: Assembly Speaker John Perez calls this “a welcome and helpful development.”

“Assembly Democrats first proposed a permanent rainy day fund last May, and we look forward to working with our Republican and Senate colleagues to build a reliable system that handles short-term revenue spikes differently than ongoing, stable revenue streams,” said Perez, D-Los Angeles. “We need to establish a solid system for saving money in good years, so that we can better weather the bad years. We need a mechanism that not only strengthens our constitutional reserve, but also gets us off the rollercoaster ride of revenue spikes and dips that has caused so much trouble in recent years.”

UPDATE @ 2:02 P.M.: State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, says he’s glad Brown is doing this, but doubts whether Democrats share the enthusiasm. “It’s just common sense for California to put away money during the ‘boom’ years to avoid future tax increases and spending reductions in the ‘bust’ years. However, we are mindful that legislative Democrats have undermined similar efforts in the recent past,” he said.

“Despite agreeing to, and voting for, the rainy day reserve fund in Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (ACA 4) as part of the 2010-11 budget agreement with Republicans, Senate Pro Tem Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Perez denied Californians the opportunity to vote for it on the ballot in 2012 as promised,” Huff continued. “Now they want to remove it from the 2014 election ballot, preventing the people of California from establishing strong protections against future budget crises. I think today’s announcement is a message to the Democrats that the Governor is serious about doing something.”

The California Chamber of Commerce supports Brown’s move, too. “Adopting an effective Rainy Day Reserve should be the state’s top fiscal policy. California’s budget crises were caused by the Legislature spending one-time revenues for ongoing programs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg. “A solid reserve requirement will remove the California budget from the fiscal roller coaster. It is crucial that the Legislature pass a consensus proposal that the Governor can support to get approval by voters in November.”

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Bad news for the special-election measures

The Public Policy Institute of California’s latest poll shows that as interest has grown in the May 19 special election, opposition has grown to the ballot measures with five of the six headed for defeat:

  • Prop. 1A, the spending cap/rainy-day fund: 52 percent no, 35 percent yes
  • Prop. 1B, restoring money cut from education: 47 percent no, 40 percent yes
  • Prop. 1C, borrowing against future lottery income: 58 percent no, 32 percent yes
  • Prop. 1D, diverting money from children’s programs: 45 percent no, 43 percent yes
  • Prop. 1E, diverting money from mental health: 48 percent no, 41 percent yes
  • Prop. 1F, preventing raises for state officials when the budget is in deficit: 73 percent yes, 24 percent no
  • “The voters who are really tuned in are really turned off,” PPIC president, CEO and survey director Mark Baldassare. “They see the state’s budget situation as a big problem, but so far, they don’t like the solution.”

    PPIC found voters most likely to be following news of the special election very closely are older than age 55, men and those who disapprove of the governor and legislature.

    That latter category would be most of you, apparently: The poll found the governor (34 percent) and legislature (12 percent) at almost-record-low approval ratings. Californians feel less trust in state government now than PPIC has ever seen: Just 16 percent of likely voters say they can trust the government in Sacramento to do what is right just about always (2 percent) or most (14 percent) of the time. Among Californians overall, 23 percent hold this view (4 percent always, 19 percent most of the time).

    But it’s not all gloom and doom. For the first time since PPIC started asking in 2003, most Californians – 57 percent – and most likely voters here – 52 percent – think the nation is generally headed in the right direction. That’s a marked increase even from when January, when it was 32 percent of Californians and 31 percent of likely voters. (Apparently, yes he can!)

    The findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,005 adult Californians interviewed from April 27 through May 4 in English or Spanish; the margin of error all adults is ±2 percent, and for the 1,080 likely voters, it’s ±3 percent.

    More PPIC tidbits, after the jump…
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