Brown Gets Closer to Pulling a Budget Coup

Things are looking up for Gov. Jerry Brown

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The great philosopher (and sometimes baseball player) Yogi Berra once said, "It's not over until it's over."

Certainly, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown must be thinking as much with respect to the latest poll numbers regarding his temporary tax ballot measure scheduled for a November vote. The statewide survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) now finds that 68 percent of those surveyed support the governor's proposal, up from 60 percent just a few weeks ago.

Several factors account for growing voter support, among them:

  • An improving economy. As the impact of the Great Recession begins to wane in California, people are beginning to think about issues beyond their need to stay above water. Sure, the unemployment rate is still high, but it's heading in the right direction. An optimistic public tends to be a more generous public.
  • Frustration with the legislature. The voters are tired of the gridlock that has paralyzed the legislature, particularly Republican intransigence pertaining to the budget. If they have to take matters into their own hands, so be it.
  • Brown's action steps. Brown has positioned a temporary tax increase as a last-ditch, desperate effort to save the state from collapse. He's cut the budget to the bone, reduced the footprint of government, and invited the voters to be his partner on the revenue problem.
  • The cause. Historically, funding education has been a basic service of government. Over the past few years, voters have learned of the state's education despair. Poor test scores, high dropout rates, crowded classrooms, and one of the shortest school years in the nation are among the data points that have been drilled into the public's collective mindset again and again -- and they believe what they hear and read. The voters also know that the overwhelming proportion of the new revenues will address K-12 public education.

Proponents of the temporary tax increases are hardly out of the woods. Two competing revenue proposals could easily confuse voters to the point that the pro-tax vote falls apart. Competing proposals often have that effect on the electorate. To that end, Brown's next task is to convince the other groups to drop out and fall into line behind his proposal.

Additionally, the voters have plenty of time to change their minds for any number of reasons ranging from a reversal of the economy to a well-funded fight from the anti-tax opposition.

No, the temporary tax issue is far from over. That said, the latest poll shows that the governor's proposal may stick. 

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