SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 03: Jerry Brown (L) kisses his wife Anne Gust Brown before he is sworn in as the 39th governor of California by California on January 3, 2011 in Sacramento, California. Jerry Brown will begin his third term as California's governor, 28 years after serving his last term. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
What's going on here?
It's entirely normal for voter support to drop, as time goes on, for a proposed ballot measure.
But Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal is showing the opposite effect, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institue of California. Support is actually increasing.
The PPIC poll shows that 68 percent of likely voters support the governor's plan, which would raise the sales tax by a half cent, and boost the income tax rate for the state's wealthiest citizens. A month and a half ago, the support rate was 60 percent.
It's likely that the increased support has to do with the governor's warning that public education faces deep "trigger cuts" of nearly $5 billion if the tax plan is rejected at the ballot box People don't like the idea of cutting schools more than they have been.
Brown has said he's not making threats, but is simply laying out consequences unless new revenues are approved.
To be fair, the PPIC poll also shows voters with a split personality when it comes to the tax plan. 68 percent like the idea of increasing the income tax on individual filers who make more than $250,000 a year.
That's not surprising. Most people want to tax "the other guy".
But when it comes to raising the sales tax by a half cent, 64 percent of likely voters are opposed. That's true across party lines.
Fifty-four percent of Democrats don't like the idea, while 74 percent of Republicans are opposed.
This isn't an either-or situation, however. Brown is pursuing both tax hikes, which would expire in 2016, to help erase California's deficit and spare schools and social programs from further cuts.
And it's still very early. The governor's initiative is still in the signature-gathering phase, and tax critics have yet to fire up their campaign.
Another crucial factor is the behavior of the legislature this year. Another protracted budget fight will only sour the public further on state government, and undermine the governor's call for more tax money.
Democrats seemed to signal that another fight is on the horizon on Tuesday, when they announced that they were suing State Controller John Chiang. Last year, Chiang moved to withhold the pay of state lawmakers for two weeks under provisions of Proposition 25, which requires passage of a balanced budget.
Democrats believe Chiang overstepped his authority.
It'll be in Jerry Brown's interest to get a budget done on time, despite that conflict, in order to sell his message that government is being responsive.
Voters are showing that they're open to the tax question, but far from sold.