The first survey on the Gov. Jerry Brown budget plan is now out and it has some interesting findings. The Public Policy Institute of California released the survey on Thursday.

According to the PPIC, some 58 percent of Californians are satisfied with the Brown budget approach of cuts and taxes; some 66 percent of likely voters favor the idea of a special election to prevent further budget cuts, but only 54 percent actually favor extending the 2009 tax increases that would be at the heart of the proposed June special election.

What are we to make of these figures? First, the $8 billion in specific budget cuts Brown has proposed would now seem in concrete. Democrats howled when former Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed similar cuts, but now that the cuts have Brown’s fingerprints on them, the howling has ceased. The $4 billion in funding shifts Brown has proposed would also seem to have general support.

The special election issue is more nuanced. First, the poll find voters very opposed to cuts in K-12 education and favoring cuts in prison spending. But, as PPIC points out, this may be based on an erroneous belief that prison spending is higher than spending on schools, when the facts are just the opposite. Only 10 percent of the budget goes to prison spending, nearly half to schools.

Nevertheless, a huge majority (71 percent) in this survey say they would support higher taxes to prevent further cuts to schools – a finding consistent with the Brown strategy of holding back school funding cuts in the current budget proposal and then telling the voters that schools will be cut if the tax extension is not approved.

But here is the fly in the ointment. When asked the straight question: would you favor an extension of the temporary increases in the state income tax, the sales tax and the vehicle tax and “if voters reject the proposal, additional cuts to services would be made” only 54 percent of likely voters said yes, 41 percent were opposed.

These are very weak numbers going into a special election. They suggest that the same voters who want schools protected have little sympathy for additional taxes, at least on themselves, to do so. Another part of the survey supports this conclusion, when asked whether the budget should be balanced with a mixture of cuts and taxes, mostly cuts, or mostly taxes, 45 percent of likely voters said a mixture, 41 percent said mostly cuts and only eight percent said mostly taxes. The anti-tax sentiment remains very strong in this state.

But it is not across the board. The survey has an odd finding that 55 percent of voters favor raising taxes on corporations. In November, voters had the opportunity to do just that, by repealing corporate tax breaks enacted in 2009 (Proposition 24), and by a vote of 58 percent they said no.

In this survey they say yes to corporate tax increases but oppose raising personal income tax rates by 70 percent, the state sales tax by 64 percent, and the vehicle license fee by 62 percent.

Could it be that Brown is picking the wrong taxes to take to the voters? Maybe. Some liberal groups want him to call for higher taxes on corporations and the rich, and not try to extend the middle class taxes increases of 2009.

But assuming that is where the special election will go, the needle threading by both sides is pretty clear. Voters want to protect schools from further cuts, but for Brown to succeed he must convinced them that the only way to do so is to extend the 2009 tax increases.

However, voters are opposed to tax increases (on themselves at least) and still believe, according to some surveys, that there is much waste and inefficiency in state government. The PPIC survey shows a continuing lack of trust in the legislature, 68 percent disapprove of the legislature’s performance. Even if the legislature enacts all the spending cuts, will that be enough to extend the 2009 taxes?

This survey shows that voters approve “major spending cuts to almost all state agencies” and a “June special election to for voters to vote on a tax and fee package to prevent further cuts.” But that does mean they favor more taxes on themselves. The voters in this survey seem to be repeating the old line from Sen. Russell Long of Louisiana, “Don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax the guy behind the tree.”