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California poll support for Jerry Brown's tax increases has ominous implications for U.S. taxpayers too

California democrat governor jerry Brown 4-12-11

If the conventional mantra about California being on the forefront of the nation's political trends holds true, it's really bad news for America's taxpayers.

According to a new L.A. Times / USC Dornsife poll, a majority of Californians -- 52% to 38% -- are just fine with Democrat Jerry Brown's plan to fill the state's chronic budget deficit with $14 billion in new or renewed taxes along with cuts, as long as they get to vote on it.

This despite the recent history of waste, corruption and spending abuses in the most populous state's vast government.

This despite the state's continuing 12% unemployment rate, second-highest in the country.

This despite the weak 44% job approval rating for Gov. Brown.

This despite 41% of Californians believing that wasteful, unwise spending by ....

... state officials is responsible for the deficit.

This despite 67% of Californians believing the state's coughing economy is not yet improving and possibly worsening.

This despite 66% of Californians believing the country is on the wrong track under the Obama administration.

This despite 70% believing California is on the wrong track under -- oh, look! -- it's Jerry Brown again.

Brown's idea is to erase the $26-billion deficit in an $85-billion budget with a claimed $12 billion in  cuts and $14 billion in new or extended taxes, because who doesn't believe more government would help any situation?

Last year during his campaign against Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman, Brown promised he would put any tax increases before California voters, likely in June because some taxes are due to expire July 1. And we can't have any of that in such a blue state.

Alas for Brown, the state Legislature, which has Democratic majorities and blockading Republican minorities, did not approve of this electButton Impeach Everybodyion package idea. So now what-can-Brown-do-for-you is traveling around the state like a certain Democratic president traveling around the country talking up his deficit reduction plan. Maybe with a fall tax vote.

No risky tax referendum for Obama. His speech-making strategy is based on the belief that Americans favor increases in taxes paid by others. So, he talks about going after those wealthy few who, in his opinion, have enough money already. Hundreds of them donated millions of dollars to Obama's 2012 campaign last week during frequent fundraisers in California.

The Los Angeles Times / USC Dornsife Poll shows that only 30% approve of solving the deficit with spending cuts only. The Los Angeles Times news story approvingly quotes Anton Fleig, a 59-year-old Democrat, as saying: "It is unconscionable to cut some of these programs when disparity of wealth is what it is. It is just morally wrong .... I would rather have less money in my pocket."

You'll never guess a possibly emerging plan for Brown to get around the awkward absence of this promised popular vote on tax increases and extensions: Pass legislation to do it anyway.

So, if Brown pulled one of those political double-crosses, how would that affect public support for his budget plan among Californians?

The poll found it would prompt 40% to become less likely to support it and 22% more likely to support it. Four percent said they didn't know how it would make them feel and 34% said the switcheroo would make no difference to them. At least until they renewed their license plates.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: John Green / Associated Press (Brown); CafePress.

Comments () | Archives (21)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Count me among those who believe Brown's plan -- paying for vital government services like roads and law enforcement by increasing taxes primarily on the wealthiest Californians -- would benefit most Californians far more than it would hurt. And it sure beats the Republicans' "no taxes, anytime, ever, for anything" mantra that only ensures that the rich get richer while the state goes broke.

Wonder what the results would be if they changed the question from, "Are you in favor of higher taxes..." to "Are you willing to pay more in taxes..."

These questions are phrased in such a way that you can't assume the respondent actually pays any taxes. When you adjust for that, the results might change as well.

Before I believe polls like this, I like to read analyses by other polsters on the poll internals. Figures don't lie, but liers can figure.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

Let's get rid of all the current crowd in Sacramento. Next election only vote for someone who is not in office now. The current group of politicians cannot get the job done and dont deserve to be there.

Ominous? Risky?
Those are the words of someone who's bought into the myth that taxes are bad for the economy.

(Most people in the US support higher taxes on businesses and the wealthy. It isn't limited to California.)

This is journalism? Mr. Malcolm should immediately apply for a position at Fox News; his conservative bias is leaking out of every sentence.

Californians have taken a hard look at the unvarnished truth, and realized that spending cuts must be complemented by new and renewed taxes. This is the only way to maintain our infrastructure, rebuild our schools/universities, support first-class medical/research centers, and forge ahead into the 21st Century. Not to mention eliminating or lessening morally ugly cuts.

Therefore our poll is not "ominous news" for American taxpayers -- the rest of the country should definitely follow California's intelligent lead.

Hey, Anton Fleig, if you would rather have less money in your pocket, you are free to send it to Sacramento. Until you start doing that voluntarily, it's hypocritical to force others to do what you won't.

What corporate-protecting rightwingers like you, Andrew, don't want to get, or let any more of us get, is that sacrifice HAS to be borne by those that got, living in their oases in an ocean of have-not-muchers, when those who have, have much more than they need, and in fact have perverted government to plunder the public treasury, and impoverish the vast majority of human beings, relative to the now-lost condition of their middle-class comforts.

You are a shill for the few masters who love a population of slaves, underpaid, underemployed and overworked. Raising taxes on those who would be masters should be but the first step, as you correctly fear. The choice is in continuing outrageous tax cuts and outright control of the system that taxes you more, with flat and broad-based taxes, the poorer you get, versus cutting services for everyone who cannot afford them. Yours is the society of the Dark Ages the rest of us want to keep in the rear-view mirror, not continuing into the future from the present economic torture you prefer.

Did it occur to anyone in California that the rich can (and will) remove themselves and their assets to lower tax states, in order to keep more of their earned money? Who then will you tax to pay for your largess?

No matter what they do this system is finished. More taxes will drive more companies out of California and eventually all the people who vote for spending other peoples money will have no one that is taxable. Another similar financial experiment has now entered it's consequence phase . It is known as Greece. Saying something over and over does not make it so. Adding columns of figures over and over again does not balance a budget. Let Rome burn, it cannot happen fast enough for me . Brown was a fool as a young man and now is an old fool . There is no fool like an old fool. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is called Jerry Brown!

I really find it hard to believe any Californian in there right mind would support Jerry's tax increases. People take 10 to do some research You give it to sacramento they blow it and want more. same old story different day. nothing ever changes check the history of this state.

Comments moderated? Sounds like China to me , so much for free speech. The responses indicate that the forums originators are in favor of more taxes. Have you ever heard anyone in Government suggest anything but higher taxes to solve every problem they have created? Why should anyone listen to anything on a forum that restricts free speech?

It's obvious from Mr. Malcolm's judgmental statements "what-can-Brown-do-for-you," "political double crosses" and "the switcheroo," that he has been drinking too much "tea" of late. Why is it that Mr. Malcolm objects to the people of California having a vote on these tax extensions? Because this scantily disguised Republican has, like the other most coonservative members of his party, never met a tax he didn't dislike. Where is the question about why the "blockading Republicans" in the Legislature feel that they owe more allegiance to Grover Norquist ( the originator of the "No New Taxes" pledge that Republicns have been forced to sign or lose Party support) than to the people in their Senate and Assembly Districts?

Numbers are like people. If you torture them enough you can make them say anything.

I for one think Jerry Brown is headed in the correct direction with a caveat.

He should withdraw his ill-conceived compromise of taking the tax extensions to the ballot box and push as hard as he can for an out and out extension by the legislature.

After all, that's what a representative democracy is all about.

Tyranny by a one-third minority is not democracy.

An aside in response to Mikey J's post:

Do you seriously think a Larry Ellison or a Gerry Parsky or a Steve Jobs would leave the state of California and homes in Carmel, Balboa Island, or a high rise penthouse in San Francisco to move to South Dakota to save what amounts to pocket change for them so as to have even more money they can't live long enough to spend as it is?

C'mon, now. Even you wouldn't do it to escape a minor increase in your taxation.

I don't live in fact, I never plan to even visit again. You socialists out there like Ben can just go ahead and vote yourselves money out of other people's pockets until...they leave or there is none left.

Just you all promise us that when California implodes, you will live with the consequences and not move to other states to wreck it with your screwball ideas.

You can take all the money from Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, etc., and it still won't solve the problem: the legislature will spend significantly more money than it takes in no matter how much you increase taxes. Increasing taxes just encourages them to waste even more.

What a GOP flunky you are, Andrew.

This state poll shows Californians clearly reject the GOP's all-cuts budget.

At the national level, people want the wealthiest Americans and corporations to also pull their fair weight.

That's as it should be.

The GOP lost seats in the Assembly and the Senate in 2010, and voters rejected the all-cuts budget approach.

The state's voters know that a fourth consecutive year of cutting school funding --after $18 billion already sustained--would permanently devastate the public school system...a school system that even wealthy Republicans enjoy.

Conservatives can either see reason and moderation, and drop the ridiculous list of demands that hold the rest of the state hostage, or continue to enjoy dwindling numbers and be voted out of office even faster.

The same people who say the state is going broke simply because the "rich" aren't taxed enough are the same one that say "I can't be broke, I have checks left."

The last thing you do with a person (or government) who has a spending problem is hand them over more money! I have to credit Andrew Malcom for coming up with some good points such as "who doesn't believe more government won't help any situation?" The reason I think that this term is different than the previous two terms for Brown is that this time the media is on to him. He tries to cloud up issues such as the prision guard contract with double speak and points that make no sense and go nowhere. And, this time it's not working. Though the LA Times isn't ready to throw him under the bus, yet, the bus is on and in gear.
Brown pitched himself as an older, wiser Clintonesq fiscal conservative Democrat who would stand up to the unions. So far all he's shown is that he's old, out of ideas, and a push over. This term won't end well for him.

Taxes are GOOD for the economy if we spend money on things that help to produce value or reduce expenses.
This should be obvious even to a conservative. It's called an "investment."
It an investment when a child gets a world-class education in a public school, and then goes on to get a world-class education at State or U.C. school.
It is an investment when we build or repair infrastructure that helps people get to work, move goods and services from place to place.
It is an investment when we regulate businesses so that we have clean air and less health impacts due to pollution.
Yes, we need to cut. Yes we need to do pension reform. But yes we need to close the gap with taxes.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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