RECORD LOW JOB RATINGS FOR STATE LEGISLATURE AS VOTERS SEE BUDGET DELAY AS INCREASINGLY SERIOUS – GOVERNOR’S AND DEMOCRATS’ BUDGET PLANS PREFERRED OVER GOP PROPOSAL

BY MARK DiCAMILLO and MERVIN FIELD
The Field Poll

As the deadlock in the state’s budget negotiations drags on without any resolution, a record low proportion of voters (15%) approves of the job performance of the state legislature. Voters are increasingly concerned about the delay in passing a state budget, with 82% now describing the situation as very serious, up from 68% in July and 58% in December.

When voters are asked to react to three different proposals that have been advanced in Sacramento as ways to resolve most of the estimated $15.2 billion short-fall, no one proposal is endorsed by a majority, although the plans put forward by the Democrats in the legislature (32%) and by the Governor (31%) are preferred by more voters than those who support a plan supported by GOP legislative leaders (19%).

These are the findings from the latest Field Poll of a random sample of 504 registered voters completed this week.

All-time low job rating for the state legislature

Just 15% of California voters now approve of the job being done of the state’s lawmakers, while 73% disapprove. This is the lowest approval rating ever recorded for the state legislature by The Field Poll in repeated measures taken during the past twenty-five years.
Criticism of the legislature crosses party lines, as there are only minor differences in the approval ratings given by Democrats (17%), Republicans (12%) and non-partisans (16%).

Voters view budget delay as increasingly serious

At the end of last year, when it became clear that California would be facing a massive deficit in the 2008-09 fiscal year, about six in ten voters (58%) interviewed by The Field Poll viewed the deficit situation as a very serious matter. As the weeks and months have dragged on without any resolution, an increasing majority of voters have come to view the situation as very serious. In the current survey 82% take this position, up from 68% in July.

There are no significant partisan differences among rank-and-file voters as to the perceived seriousness of the matter. Greater than three in four Democrats (82%), Republicans (84%) and non-partisans (78%) each view the budget deficit as a very serious matter.

Voter preferences regarding the three major budget proposals

Various proposals have been advanced to deal with the state’s projected $15.2 billion deficit. Over the past two months they have been reduced to three basic alternatives, each of which is aimed at taking care of most of the shortfall.

One proposal offered by Democratic legislators calls for reducing $6 billion in state spending and raising about $8 billion in revenues by increasing state income taxes of high-income individuals and businesses. A Republican proposal would cut spending by about $11 billion and borrow about $2 billion from future state lottery proceeds. The Governor’s alternative would cut spending by about $8 billion and increase revenues by about $5 billion by hiking the sales tax one cent on the dollar.

Voters in this survey were read each of the proposals and asked which they favored the most. Only the basic elements of each proposal were posed without any reference to who was backing them.

In this context, the Democratic legislative proposal (32%) and the Governor’s plan (31%) each receive about the same level of support, while fewer (19%) favor the Republican plan. One in seven voters (14%) volunteer that they favored none of the three proposals and another 4% have no opinion.

Registered Democrats and non-partisans are more likely to support the Democratic plan. Registered Republicans are more supportive of the Governor’s proposal than they are of the legislative Republicans’ proposal.

See Related: THE FIELD POLL

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