- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2012

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s $6 billion tax-increase initiative is losing steam as it enters the final stretch of the race, according to a poll released Thursday.

Just 46 percent of Californians surveyed plan to vote for the measure Nov. 6, down from 55 percent a month ago, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. After an expensive lobbying campaign against the measure, 42 percent now say they would vote against the tax increases.

A separate survey released late Wednesday by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California also found a tight contest, with 48 percent of likely voters saying they would support the governor’s plan, while 44 percent would vote no and 8 percent were undecided.

The polls represent the first time that support for Mr. Brown’s Proposition 30 has fallen below 50 percent, and the trends are not favorable for the governor. Mr. Brown has campaigned tirelessly for the measure, which would temporarily raise the income tax on the state’s highest earners and the sales tax in order to fill a yawning $6 billion “budget gap” in state finances.

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said in a statement Thursday that Mr. Brown has tried to balance the push for higher taxes with fiscal responsibility, even taking away state-funded cellphones from public employees, but that “voters don’t see it yet.”

“They buy his argument about the need for taxes to fund schools, but they don’t think sending money to Sacramento is the right way to do it,” said Mr. Schnur. California voters have rejected nine out of the past 10 tax-increase initiatives, including a proposal earlier this year to raise the tobacco tax to fund cancer research.

“If they can’t pass that, they’re not going to pass this,” said California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro.

A loss by Proposition 30 would trigger automatic cuts in public education that proponents say would result in a shortened K-12 school year and significant tuition increases for students in the California university systems.

Mr. Brown told The Associated Press he wants to ensure that voters know the consequences of a Proposition 30 defeat.

“I don’t want anybody to wake up the day after the election and be surprised,” Mr. Brown said Wednesday between stops in Inglewood and San Diego.

Opponents of Proposition 30 dismiss the threats as a scare tactic designed to frighten voters. The “No on 30” campaign, which has been outspent by the public-employee unions backing Proposition 30 by at least 2 to 1, released a statement Thursday calling the measure a “budget gimmick.”

“Even with $48 million to fund misleading advertisements, voters are seeing through the governor’s deceptive campaign,” said John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business of California. “Voters understand that Prop 30 is just another budget gimmick that doesn’t guarantee any money for the classroom, and can be spent on anything the politicians want.”

Supporters of Proposition 30 argue that most of the $6 billion would go toward schools as a result of Proposition 98, a 1998 ballot measure that requires a certain percentage of the budget to be spent on education.

Proposition 30 wasn’t alone in an election year that may find California voters just saying “no” across the board. Proposition 38, a competing tax-increase measure, received the support of just 28 percent of voters, while Proposition 32, a “paycheck protection” measure that would also ban union and corporate political donations, had 39 percent support.

The poll questioned 1,504 registered California voters from Oct. 15 through 21, with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.