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PPIC: Brown, Legislature, economy on a roll

Gov. Brown on Jan. 9 in the state Capitol as he unveiled his 2015-16 draft budget. Brown's budget includes the newly approved "rainy day fund."(Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli)

Likely voters in California are starting off the new year with some new-found optimism about the governor, the economy and — wait for it — the Legislature,  according to a new survey released late Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Voters’ positive vibes are rubbing off on Gov. Brown, who has a record  high job approval rating of 61 percent. That figure includes four out of five Democrats and even a third of the Republicans surveyed.

Nearly 60% predict this year Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature will work together well.

The non-profit PPIC regularly examines the feelings of Californians toward their government.

The survey of 1,705 adult Californians was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation in the week following the governor’s Jan. 9 release of his proposed 2015-16 state budget.

Fifty-seven percent say the state is moving in the right direction, a seven-point leap from the previous month. Nearly 60% predict this year Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature will work together well, and they also anticipate good economic times and a good budget.

Not everyone is happy, however.

A new report from the Wall Street ratings agency Standard & Poor’s reported that “a future revenue slump [in California] isn’t only possible, it’s expected.”

Standard & Poor’s noted that California’s decision to make spending cuts to help balance the books was positive, but also said that the end of a temporary, voted-approved revenue stream could hurt the state.

But PPIC President Mark Baldassare said, “Budget worries are finally subsiding in California.”

H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for Brown’s Finance Department, said spending cuts were one piece of the budget negotiations, but that the voters’ decision to approve taxes and the Legislature’s desire to come to an agreement also were critical.

“It (cuts) was one factor, but it wasn’t the only factor,” Palmer said.

Even the Legislature, which was rattled by a recent series of scandals in the state Senate, made gains in the realm of public perception.

It’s a benefit to both California’s sense of fiscal well being — and Brown’s rising public perception — that he’s continuing a push for state government frugality, the survey said.

As he enters his second term in office, Brown’s approval ratings are at an historic high — 20% higher than when he first returned to the executive office in January 2011. The approval resonates across all age, education, gender and income groups, according to PPIC.

Even the Legislature, which was rattled by a recent series of scandals in the state Senate, made gains in the realm of public perception. Forty-nine percent of adults approve of the job they’re doing. compared to 42% a year ago. It is the highest approval for lawmakers in 13 years.

And when asked to prioritize state spending, 53% of adults surveyed ranked K-12 as their top priority.

Whether those approval ratings will remain high could depend on how the Legislature and governor handle the next fiscal year.

When read a brief description of the governor’s budget proposal, 79% of likely voters viewed the plan favorably. The draft calls for a spending boost for K-12 and higher education; nominal increases to health and human services, prisons, and courts; dedicating funds to pay down state debt; and storing $1.2 billion into the state’s rainy day fund.

And when asked to prioritize state spending, 53% of adults surveyed ranked K-12 as their top priority.

Concern over the number of jobs and the state of the economy is still number one for likely voters (19%), but that has taken a 7% dip since January 2014 while “education and schools” saw a 2% increase.

In spite of recent U.S. Census Bureau data showing California’s poverty rate is higher than any other state, restoration to cuts made to social services was not a priority for those surveyed by PPIC.

A majority of adults and likely voters said they instead supported spending new surplus cash by paying down state debt and creating a reserve fund. For the first time in eight years, less than half  (46%) of residents considered the state budget to be a problem.

Though a factor in the state budget’s improvement are the temporary taxes approved at the ballot box in 2012, titled Proposition 30. These income and sales tax increases are set to expire in 2018 and Brown has repeatedly doubled down on his promise to keep them temporary, but half of Californians are actually in favor of an extension.

To find out how the federal government sized up in the public eye, check out the complete PPIC report on “Californian’s & Their Government” here.
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Ed’s Note: The findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,705 California adults interviewed on landlines and cell phones from Jan. 11–20, 2015. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The sampling error is ±3.6 percent for all adults.

 

 

 

 


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