Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Pollsters say dwindling support for Prop 30 makes passage 'improbable'

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in support of Prop. 30 at a recent rally at UCLA.
California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in support of Prop. 30 at a recent rally at UCLA.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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A new statewide poll out Thursday shows Proposition 30 in a tight race, with voter support for Governor Jerry Brown’s tax-hike plan to fund schools slipping below 50 percent for the first time.

According to the USC Dornsife/LA Times poll, 46 percent of likely voters said they’ll vote for the temporary sales and income tax hike to fund schools and public safety, 42 percent said they’ll vote against it. 

Pollster Dan Schnur says Prop 30's main proponent has to go further if wants to close the sale: “Governor Brown has successfully convinced voters that more spending on the state’s public schools is a good thing.  What he has yet to do is convince them that state government can be trusted to spend their tax dollars wisely.” 

 Schnur, who also directs the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, says voters are more open than they have been historically to a tax that increases support for public education, but many distrust Sacramento to spend wisely. Schnur says in earlier polls, for example, voters disapproved of the legislature’s passage of billions in bonds to fund high speed rail.

“Regardless of the merits of building a state-wide rail system,” says Schnur, "it’s become a symbol in the minds of many voters of reasons why not to trust state government’s spending habits.”

Schnur thinks Brown could gain traction with voters if he came out publicly against the rail project. But in an interview earlier this week the Governor rejected the idea.

“You might ask how the federal government — that has such a massive deficit — spent almost $3 billion putting a one-ton vehicle on Mars," the governor observed. "Well, they did and I’m very proud they did because it was done in California, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.”

Brown says the government has to continually invest in technology to advance the state of knowledge and that’s what California did by investing in high-speed rail.  He says what’s important is to strike the right balance between investment and frugality. Brown believes he’s done that.