Brown’s Tax-Increase Proposal Wins Favor From Most Californians, Poll Says

Californians, including a majority of Republicans, favor Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to raise taxes to help close a $9.2 billion deficit, a new poll shows.

More than two-thirds, or 72 percent, of those surveyed backed the Democrat’s proposed November ballot initiative that would raise sales and income taxes, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California poll released yesterday.

The increases would yield $6.9 billion for fiscal 2012, letting the state balance its budget without cutting $4.8 billion from public schools, Brown, 73, has said. Almost all the added revenue, 89 percent, would go to primary and secondary schools, with the rest slated for community colleges. His plan would limit income-tax increases to individuals or couples making $250,000 or $500,000 a year or more, respectively.

“There is a high level of support for raising revenues when it comes to funding schools,” Mark Baldassare, the president of the San Francisco-based institute, said by telephone. “The fact that the governor has tied this to raising revenues for schools may account for a lot of the support.”

Brown’s plan calls for a four-year increase in sales taxes to 7.75 percent from 7.25 percent, while the boost in tax rates for higher-income earners would extend over five years.

Proposed Tax Increases

Individuals making $250,000 to $300,000 annually would pay 10.3 percent in income taxes, up from 9.3 percent. For those earning $300,000 to $500,000, the rate would be 10.8 percent. Single filers with income above $500,000 would pay 11.3 percent.

Those earning $1 million or more would pay 12.3 percent, up from 10.3 percent. A 2004 ballot measure earmarks the current extra 1 percentage point for mental-health services.

Brown’s overall proposal was favored by 85 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans, according to the survey. Pollsters questioned 2,002 adults, including 894 likely voters, by telephone Jan. 10-17 and the results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for the larger group.

More than two-thirds of likely voters, 68 percent, supported raising taxes for high-income residents, while 64 percent opposed sales-levy increases, according to the poll. The margin of error for that group was 4.2 percentage points.

Many voters remain hostile to tax increases and believe the state could maintain essential government services without them, Baldassare said.

Ephemeral Support

Support for tax increases always melts away on election day, said Jon Coupal, the Sacramento-based executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The state’s most-recent tax proposal to go before voters, Proposition 1A in 2009, was leading in polls five weeks before the election mustered only 35 percent support and failed to pass, he said by e-mail.

“These polls are bogus,” said Coupal, whose organization was named for the author of California’s tax-limiting Proposition 13.

Brown’s tax proposals, which haven’t yet qualified for the ballot, received $1.4 million in funding as of Jan. 21, according to campaign-finance filings. A building-trades union, a hospital trade group, an insurer, Indian tribes and Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY) were the major backers.

“We’re encouraged by the support levels,” Brown’s political adviser, Steve Glazer, said by e-mail yesterday. “However, it won’t change our intent to wage a vigorous campaign to urge public support for difficult but necessary budget cuts and temporary taxes.”

To contact the reporters on this story: James Nash in Sacramento at jnash24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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