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California’s Proposition 30 and Proposition 32 are too close to call, according to a new Reason-Rupe statewide poll of likely voters that finds 7 percent have already cast their ballots. Reason-Rupe finds 50 percent of likely voters intend to vote “yes” and 46 percent say they’ll vote “no” on Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative to raise sales and income taxes.

As Prop. 30’s support slips, there are emerging signs that even California’s Democratic-leaning electorate has grown weary of the state’s tax increases and may be ready for some Wisconsin-like reforms.

Adjusted for inflation, California’s government spending increased 42 percent per capita from 2000 to 2010, but the Reason-Rupe poll finds that just 14 percent of likely voters believe California’s government spending over that decade improved the quality of life in the state. In fact, 52 percent say the increase in state spending actually decreased the quality of life and 28 percent feel it made no impact. As a result, 56 percent of Californians favor reducing state government spending to what was spent per capita in 2000 and 25 percent oppose going back to 2000 spending levels.

The poll’s sample was made up of 44 percent Democrats, 26 percent Republicans and 24 percent independents. And yet, 62 percent support reducing the number of state government employees, while just 33 percent oppose cutting the state workforce.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed say government regulations often do more harm than good. And an even higher number, 65 percent of likely voters, believe the laws and regulations passed by the state legislature make it more likely that businesses will move their jobs to other states. Merely 24 percent think the legislature’s actions help create jobs in California.

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 696 adults in California, including 508 likely voters, via landlines (467) and cell phones (229) from October 11-15, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent, 5.1 percent for the likely voters sample. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the Reason-Rupe poll.

Proposition 32 and Public Sector Worker Reforms

The poll finds 45 percent of likely voters support Proposition 32, while 48 percent oppose it. Prop. 32would prevent unions and corporations from using automatic paycheck deductions for political purposes.

While voters may reject telling unions how they can collect or spend their money, they are eager for elected officials to rein in public sector worker costs. In fact, 77 percent say they favor requiring government workers to pay more for their own health care and retirement benefits; 20 percent oppose doing so.

Likewise, 69 percent say future government workers—those who haven’t been promised defined-pensions—should be offered 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of the guaranteed pensions currently provided.

Nearly three quarters, 74 percent, of Californians say taxpayers should get to vote on retirement and benefit increases before they are given to government workers. Just 22 percent say taxpayers should not get to approve public sector benefit increases. The public wants its voice to be heard on the issue because 53 percent feel public sector unions have too much power over elected officials at the negotiating table and 42 percent say government unions hurt the state economy. Seventeen percent say public sector unions help the economy.

One specific example: 53 percent of Californians say the average state prison guard, who costs taxpayers over $100,000 a year in salary, overtime and benefits, is overpaid. Thirty-eight percent say guards are paid about the right amount and 6 percent say they are underpaid.

Proposition 38, Higher Education Funding and Bias

Molly Munger’s Proposition 38, which would raise taxes to increase funding for schools, is supported by 42 percent of likely voters and opposed by 52 percent.

As California’s universities warn of even more tuition and fee increases if tax increases aren’t approved, the Reason-Rupe poll identifies several higher education reforms that enjoy vast public support.  Voters, by a 71-22 margin, favor requiring full-time faculty to teach one additional class each school year. Three out of four likely voters say state colleges and universities should offer full course offerings during the summer. Sixty-nine percent support consolidating academic programs and 64 percent favor transitioning low enrollment classes into online courses.  And 51 percent of voters believe universities could cut the number of administrators without harming the quality of education.

When asked if university professors offer material in a balanced or biased way, 53 percent say the presentation is biased and 24 percent say it is balanced. When asked to describe the bias, 68 percent believe it is a liberal bias, 8 percent feel it is a conservative bias and 20 percent say it is some other type of bias.

Municipal Bankruptcies and Reducing the Costs of Government

With multiple municipal governments filing for bankruptcy in California recently, voters were asked to identify changes they’d support their own local governments making.   Just 28 percent of voters support reductions to social services, police and fire departments, while 69 oppose such cuts. Conversely, 63 percent favor selling government-owned assets like golf courses, parking lots and convention centers.  Nearly the same amount, 60 percent, support outsourcing services such as trash collection, park management and road maintenance to the private sector. And 71 percent say they oppose raising local taxes in their area, while 25 percent support tax increases.

Presidential and Senate Race

President Barack Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney 53 percent to 38 percent among likely voters. The Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson gets 2 percent of support and 1 percent favors the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

Fifty-five percent of Californians approve of the job President Obama is doing and 40 percent disapprove. Similarly, 59 percent of likely voters view the president favorably, with 38 percent viewing him unfavorably. In contrast, 49 percent of voters view Romney unfavorably and 42 percent view him favorably.

In the U.S. Senate race, Sen. Dianne Feinstein leads Republican Elizabeth Emken 60 percent to 34 percent.

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.