California

Gov. Jerry Brown's Tax Proposal Slipping in the Polls

Voter blackmail is not a reliable way of garnering support

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"Help stop the problem I created in the first place!"

Several polls now show approval starting to dip for California Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, which would increase income taxes for high earners and sales taxes for everybody to avoid billions in cuts to the state's education budget.

Our Reason-Rupe poll from earlier in October had the proposition barely ahead 50-46 percent (with 4 percent undecided). A new poll by USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times shows only 46 percent in support of the initiative, a drop of nine points in a month. A poll from the Public Policy Institute of California has it at 48 percent.  

In a press conference yesterday, Brown said he still feels Prop. 30's chances are good:

He said "the God's honest truth" about Proposition 30 is, "It's hurt the schools or take a little money from people who can well afford it.

"It's so obvious that it is a little puzzling that the polls aren't a little higher," Brown said. "But they're in the ballpark. We're ahead, and I think from all the internal numbers that I've looked at, this can be won."

"Puzzling," hmmmm? It tends to be difficult to try to guess at what voters do and don't know about the state's political maneuverings. Is it possible that these voters know that Brown is the very reason why the education cuts may happen and that he's essentially trying to blackmail voters into approving tax increases? Is it possible that they know that if Brown had cut out billions from other parts of the state budget rather than education there would be no way in hell voters would approve a tax increase to fill the hole back in? Or maybe it's possible they know that school staffing levels have historically made little difference in quality of education?

There's a part of me that wonders if Brown isn't secretly hoping the initiative fails in order to force public sector unions to really consider pension and benefit reforms. It would brilliantly savvy because Brown gets to shift responsibility for being the "bad guy." But then Occam's Razor kicks in and reminds me that he just signed a bill creating a state-managed pension fund for private-sector employees. Also, the whole high-speed rail thing. Brown is the last person who should find voters' reluctance to approve more taxes "puzzling."

Emily Ekins dissects more information from Reason-Rupe's October poll of California voters here.