SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown’s November tax increase initiative has only slim support with likely California voters, with just 51 percent backing it and 38 percent opposed, according to the results of a Field Poll released Thursday.
A rival tax initiative to fund schools remains below the critical 50 percent threshold.
It’s the second public opinion survey in two days that finds Brown with falling support for his tax plan. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday found the governor’s Proposition 30 had support from 52 percent of likely voters, with 40 percent opposed.
The surveys also indicate that support has fallen slightly since mid-summer. A Field Poll taken in July found that 54 percent of likely voters supported Proposition 30.
Brown’s campaign remained optimistic, calling support for the tax increase “strong and steady.”
The governor’s tax initiative would raise income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year for seven years and raise the statewide sales tax by a quarter cent for four years. It has consistently maintained slightly stronger support than the two other tax initiatives on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Thursday’s Field Poll found that just 41 percent of likely voters support Proposition 38, sponsored by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger. It would raise income taxes on nearly all earners but send the money directly to public schools and early childhood programs. Field found that 44 percent oppose Proposition 38, while 15 percent said they are undecided.
Joe Arellano, a spokesman for Proposition 38, said the campaign plans to begin airing ads soon to show voters that the measure “benefits local schools, not Sacramento, and our poll numbers will begin to rise.”
Proposition 39, which would increase taxes on multi-state businesses that operate in California by changing the state’s tax formula, has 45 percent support and 39 percent opposition among likely voters, with 16 percent undecided. The money would help pay for energy efficiency upgrades to schools and public buildings for five years, after which the revenue would revert to the state general fund.
Brown has said his tax initiative is essential to resolving California’s ongoing budget crisis and necessary to bail out struggling public schools. If it doesn’t pass, the state Legislature could impose about $6 billion in automatic cuts to schools and universities.
It has strong support from Democratic allies such as unions, which have made the biggest contributions to date. Proposition 38 is backed by the California state PTA, but nearly all its funding has come from Munger, who has given nearly $25 million to date.
Both polls found greater support for the school tax initiatives among women, minorities and lower-income Californians. Would-be voters’ opinions also were tied to their opinion of the Democratic governor. The Field Poll found that 47 percent approve of the job Brown is doing, while 38 percent disapprove.
Field and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley jointly interviewed 1,183 registered California voters by telephone from Sept. 6-18. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points for the 902 likely voters surveyed.
By JULIET WILLIAMS