Slim majority of Californians in online poll favor prop 30 tax hike for schools and public safety

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California Gov. Jerry Brown, speaking in Sacramento on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, advocates a ballot initiative that would increase sales and income taxes. Several states have measures on the November ballot that seek to plug deficits by raising taxes.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike initiative on the November ballot is favored by a slim majority, but pollsters say Proposition 30's fate is “vulnerable.”

The PACE/USC Rossier School of Education on Wednesday released its poll results, which found 55% of respondents support Prop 30. The initiative proposes to raise taxes to prevent further cuts to school and public safety.

But some of the poll's other results will surely trouble Prop 30 supporters: 36 % of voters strongly oppose Prop 30, and when participants compared arguments for and against the tax hike, 49 % agreed with the No on Prop 30 argument—that Sacramento should crack down on government waste before it raises taxes.

“Californians overwhelmingly believe the public schools deserve more financial resources, but they are just as adamant that the money needs to be spent in fundamentally different ways in order to have the desired impact,” said Dan Schnur, who heads USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

Schnur says Gov. Brown has an opportunity to gain more support for Prop 30 if he crafts a message that's more specific to voters' concerns. Schnur says the Prop 30 campaign will also need to outspend opponents. The former GOP political consultant who worked for Gov. Pete Wilson observes that in California history, only a handful of under-funded initiatives have prevailed.

Gov. Brown’s proposal would hike sales taxes by a quarter-cent and income taxes for people earning over a quarter-million dollars yearly. Most, but not all, of the $8.5 million expected to be raised would go to schools.

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Trustees has endorsed Prop 30, but also Prop 38--a competing measure that would raise state income taxes on a sliding scale for 12 years to support public schools.

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