A new poll shows 60 percent of California voters, weary of state spending cuts and unsettled by the prospect of more, are ready to support Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to raise taxes.
The Public Policy Institute of California poll, released Monday, is the first public measure of voter opinion about Brown's tax initiative since he announced it this month.
Brown plans to ask voters in November 2012 to temporarily increase the state sales tax and to impose higher income taxes on California's highest-earners, raising $7 billion annually for five years.
The poll comes amid deep pessimism about the economy and concern about the state budget. More than 80 percent of likely voters think the budget situation is a big problem, and more than two thirds of likely voters predict bad times financially in the year ahead.
"People are beginning to feel the impacts of state reductions in spending at the local level," poll director Mark Baldassare said, "and people are concerned about what might come about next."
Sixty-five percent of likely voters feel local government services have been affected a lot by recent state cuts, according to the poll, and more cuts are likely forthcoming. The Brown administration is expected Tuesday to announce mid-year spending cuts to make up for revenue falling below projections.
When asked about those automatic spending reductions, part of the budget package signed last summer, a plurality of likely voters - 45 percent - say they would prefer a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to address the shortfall, according to the poll.
Brown, a Democrat, is seeking to raise the statewide sales tax a half-cent and increase income taxes on people who make $250,000 or more a year. He opened a campaign committee last week, and his political adviser, Steve Glazer, has started fundraising for the effort.
Glazer said the poll's findings are "encouraging."
Brown's usefulness as a campaigner for the tax initiative could be complicated by his mediocre public approval rating, 46 percent among likely voters, according to the poll.
Still, public opinion of Brown is far higher than of the Legislature or of government, overall. Just 16 percent of likely voters approve of the way the Legislature is handling its job, according to the poll. Three-quarters of likely voters think state government is "pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves."
California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said that despite polling in recent years that suggested voter support for higher taxes, Californians on Election Day rejected those tax measures.
"We always hear about how people are ready to pay more, but then, on Election Day, they turn it down," Del Beccaro said, predicting a similar outcome next year.
The poll will be available here after 9 p.m. Monday.