The July 4th Field Poll measured the Ransom Note Effect of the governor’s budget – pass my tax initiative or I’ll cut schools. According to Field, 72% responded negatively to the cuts. But what were the voters saying: That they would pass the tax measure to avoid the cuts or that they don’t like threats?

Here’s how the question was asked: If voters do not pass the Governor’s proposed tax increase initiative in November, this would trigger automatic spending cuts to the state budget, with most of the cuts coming out of the budget for the k-12 schools.  Do you favor or oppose these cuts as a way to balance the state budget if the Governor’s tax proposal is not approved?

Field Poll director, Mark Dicamillo, was quoted here as explaining the poll number: “It’s not something that voters think is a great way to do public policy. It’s almost like holding a gun to their heads. If there is a shortage, they would prefer (lawmakers) come back after the election and deal with it.”

Back in January when the governor first proposed the approach of raising taxes or else, Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said of the proposal, “It’s the most expensive ransom note in California political history.”

As Schnur correctly noted at the time, “Everything he (the governor) does between now and November is going to be either directly or indirectly about laying the groundwork for that initiative.”

So it has come to pass. The question is how do voters react to threats? The poll indicates they don’t like the situation. Most voters probably don’t like the idea of cutting schools or the idea that they have been given this choice in such a cutthroat manner.

Look back at the Proposition 13 campaign of 1978 if you think the voters respond well to threats.