Gov. Brown: “The plan has earned widespread respect and helped stabilize California's finances.”
Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau | http://bit.ly/ptEChP
Rich Pedroncelli / AP - California Gov. Jerry Brown
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - Sacramento -- Voters in California overwhelmingly oppose a key provision of the state budget to enact automatic spending cuts if revenues from taxes are lower than projected, according to a Field Poll released today.
The poll found that 66 percent of those surveyed thought the so-called trigger cuts are a bad idea, while 24 percent said they are a good idea. State financial officials and Gov. Jerry Brown have touted the automatic cuts as a critical element of the budget and have attributed improved ratings from credit rating agencies to the provision.
Last week, Brown even vetoed a bill that would have required the administration to notify the Legislature in advance of making the trigger cuts and to consult with lawmakers about possible alternatives.
In his veto message, Brown wrote, "Why would we undermine the plan that has earned widespread respect and helped stabilize California's finances?"
Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, said voters generally had no major objections to spending cuts that were part of the budget, but feared deeper reductions.
"The public is fearful of cuts to K-12 schools, higher education and public health budgets. That's what they're concerned about," he said. While state financial officials have touted the trigger cuts, DiCamillo said of the public, "They're not accountants."
As part of the budget passed by the Legislature in June, lawmakers put in place $600 million in automatic cuts to higher education and health and social programs if tax revenues fall short of projections by more than $1 billion. A second level of cuts, which could reduce the school year by up to seven days, would take place if revenues fall short by more than $2 billion.
Over just the first two months of the fiscal year, tax revenues are $596 million below what was forecast as part of the budget, according to the Department of Finance.
Gil Duran, spokesman for Brown, said, "This is a question of: Do you like more cuts to X, Y and Z? And the governor spent most of the year making the case against that scenario." He added, though, that the trigger cuts are "the only option that's left if we want an honestly balanced budget."
Tom Dresslar, spokesman for Treasurer Bill Lockyer, said that while spending cuts are not popular, increasing taxes is not a politically viable alternative.
"So in that context, the budget the governor and the Legislature adopted is the most responsible in more than a decade," Dresslar said. He noted that the improved credit ratings saved taxpayers millions of dollars in borrowing costs for short-term loans that were taken out last week.
In addition to voters' feelings on the trigger cuts, pollsters also asked about job approval for elected officials. Brown's ratings ticked up slightly since June, with 49 percent of those surveyed approving, 32 percent disapproving and 19 percent having no opinion.
The Legislature's job-approval rating is only 20 percent, according to the survey. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they disapprove, while 15 percent hold no opinion.
The poll results are based on a survey of 1,001 registered California voters. It was conducted between Sept. 1 and 12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.