Poll: Only Salary Freeze Enjoys Majority Support


SACRAMENTO (AP) - Persuading California voters to approve the budget-related measures during a May 19 special election is shaping
up to be a tough sell.

Just one of the six measures - the one that blocks pay raises for lawmakers during deficit years - has majority support among likely voters, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Voters were divided on propositions 1A through 1E even though
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative
leaders said it's imperative the state adopt the measures to help deal with the state's precarious finances.

If the first five measures fail, the state would lose out on $6 billion in revenue, mostly from borrowing against future lottery revenues. State leaders would not only have to tackle that, but another $8 billion shortfall that has appeared since the budget package was signed last month.

"We are going to work very hard, both parties, to go up and down the state and educate the people to make sure that they win because failure here is no option," Schwarzenegger said Wednesday during a news conference at the state fairgrounds.

The governor and lawmakers passed a two-year budget plan last month to tackle a mammoth $42 billion deficit. They passed a mix of tax hikes, spending cuts and borrowing, while also relying on billions from the federal stimulus package to help balance the budget through June 30, 2010.

As part of the budget deal, voters will be asked to adopt a spending cap, borrow against state lottery revenue and shift funding intended for early child care and mental health programs.

Julie Soderlund, spokeswoman for Budget Reform Now campaign, said the consequences of not passing the measures are dire because it could put the state back on the path to "fiscal insolvency."

So far, labor and taxpayer groups have been split on the spending cap. Three anti-tax groups announced Wednesday they would organize an opposition campaign on Proposition 1A.

According to the Public Policy Institute poll, Proposition 1A, the spending cap and rainy day fund, has support from 39 percent of likely voters and is opposed by 46 percent, while 15 percent were undecided. Supporters argue it would control future government spending, but opponents criticize the measure as a ploy to raise an additional $16 billion in taxes by extending hikes for as long as two years.

Likely voters were divided on the education measure, which would
require supplemental payments to school districts and community colleges. On Proposition 1B, 44 percent are in favor, 41 percent are opposed and 15 percent are undecided.

Half of likely voters opposed the measure to modernize the lottery and sell $5 billion in bonds based on future lottery profits. The survey found 37 percent supported it, 50 percent are opposed and 11 percent are undecided on Proposition 1C.

Nearly half, 48 percent, of likely voters support Proposition 1D, which would temporarily transfer funds from early childhood education to help balance the state budget, compared to 36 percent who are opposed and 16 percent who are undecided.

Proposition 1E, which would transfer money from mental health services to the general fund, received support from 47 percent and
was opposed by 37 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

Only Proposition 1F received an overwhelming majority. The measure would block pay increases to state elected officials in years when the state is running a budget deficit. Among likely voters, 81 percent support it, 13 percent are opposed and 6 percent were undecided.

Mixed sentiment toward the budget-balancing plan helped drag down the approval ratings of Schwarzenegger and lawmakers.

Schwarzenegger's 32 percent approval rating matched his record
low, which he hit in December 2005, just after the defeat of his
government reform proposals in the last statewide special election.

Lawmakers enjoyed even lower marks: 18 percent.

"Californians are clear that the budget situation is serious, but most disapprove of the leadership in Sacramento - the people who are providing the solutions," Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said in a statement. "These leaders have their work cut out for them if they want to persuade voters that the ballot measures are necessary to address the problem."

The telephone poll surveyed 987 likely voters in English and Spanish between March 10-17. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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