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Poll: Voters want say in budget process

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More than three in four Californians buy into Gov. Jerry Brown's notion that voters should have a say in deciding which cuts and taxes will be used to plug the state's budget gap, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last night.

Since his campaign last year, Brown has said he wants to give people the opportunity to vote on major portions of his budget plan – namely tax increases and extensions which he has repeatedly promised not to enact without voter approval. However, partisan rancor in the Legislature has thus far derailed the governor's bid to put the extensions on the ballot, drawing the budget process into characteristic delays that have plagued California in recent years.

The poll found most voters approve of Brown's May 16 revised budget proposal, which used unexpected tax revenues to boost funding for K-12 public schools and community colleges. However, a large chunk of Californians oppose the specifics of his tax and fee package, which includes five-year extensions to increased sales tax and vehicle license fees and a temporary income tax increase. Among those who favor a special election, 45 percent are opposed to the tax and fee package, according to the poll.

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"Californians have favorable views of the governor's revised budget plan and his special election idea," Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, said in a statement. "Yet the fact that fewer than half support his tax and fee package raises questions about the outcome if the voters have their say."

While the majority of voters expressed support for increased funding to education and health and human services, 70 percent of likely voters said they would support cuts to the prison system, according to the poll. Earlier this week, Brown cut more than 400 managers and other administrative positions from the state's corrections department.

Brown took time Wednesday to urge support for the election during a presentation at the California State Association of Counties Legislative Conference, calling for both Republicans and Democrats to "get out of their comfort zone."

"We can't rest on what California was," Brown said, adding that his proposed realignment of state services would play a key role in the state's future. "We really have to summon the courage to make the tough choices. In order to make those decisions, our investment in infrastructure, roads, waterways, universities, health care ... This stuff is not going to happen unless we vote for it."

As has been the case since he took office, many voters are still not sure what to make of Brown's job performance. Forty-two percent of adults approve of his performance so far – a number that has remained steady since March – but one-third of voters say they still haven't formed an opinion.

The Legislature, which has shouldered much of the blame for budget delays so far, remains unpopular, with 23 percent of adults approving of its performance.

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