The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released over the weekend indicated support for the Governor Jerry Brown’s tax increase proposal, but voters’ views on the California economy could reverse those numbers.
The poll showed the compromise measure Brown created with the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign had 64% approval when “somewhat supportive” voters were counted with 33% opposed. However, in a press call yesterday, both Democratic pollsters (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner) and Republican pollsters (American Viewpoint) who conducted the poll noted that Californians are not optimistic about the state’s economy. The pollsters suggested if business groups oppose the measure, stressing a negative effect on the economy, they could find support.
Voters were opposed to general income tax increases but were less concerned about taxes on the upper end income taxpayers. The idea of a millionaire’s tax is still popular. Brown’s compromise measure increases taxes starting at $250,000.
As American Viewpoints’ David Kanevsky noted, the voters seemed to go for the “candy coated” taxes described as a tax on someone else.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said people in California are sensitive to the fact that the state’s economic recovery trails a national recovery. The economic consequences of a tax increase and its effects on jobs could be a pivotal issue for voters. Greenberg’s interpretation is that tax opponents have “great potential to come in. They’ll get an audience.”
While the poll found support for the tax measure, there were no opposition arguments tested by pollsters. Charges made against the tax measure that the money raised does not go exclusively to education and public safety, or that high income taxes might encourage the rich to leave the state, or that the state tax structure would remain volatile if the initiative passed were not tested.
Dan Schnur, director of the USC Unruh Institute of Politics said the governor made a smart political move in creating the compromise tax measure and that he currently stands in good shape unless financial opposition appears. The pollsters concurred that any substantial financial opposition to the tax increase initiative could knock it down from its high perch. Some of that financial opposition could come from civil rights attorney, Molly Munger, who is backing her own income tax increase measure.