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Jerry Brown's Popularity Strong, But So Is His Frustration

Paresh Dave |
March 22, 2011 | 2:49 a.m. PDT

Deputy Editor

Almost half of California's registered voters approve of Caifornia Gov. Jerry Brown's work during his first 80 days in office, according to a Field Poll released Tuesday.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll found Brown's approval rating to be below 50 percent after three weeks in office. Since then, Brown has sought to make popular cuts such as cutting back on the state's use of taxpayer-funded cell phones, vehicles and trinkets. He's pushed about $10 billion in spending cuts to health care, higher education and the legal system through the state Legislature.

But he's hit a wall of Republicans opposed to placing a ballot proposition in front of voters in June, asking them to extend the current levels of income, sales and vehicle taxes for five more years. His condemnation of those Republicans have reflected increasing frustration with their desire to keep California voters from having a say in the budget process. Five Republican state senators who were negotiating with Brown about pension, spending and regulatory reforms have said its Brown standing in the way of the major structural reforms the state needs to enact.

Back in January, Brown said it would be “unconscionable” for them to block the tax plan from reaching voters. In mid-February, he thought a deal was within "striking distance." Then when negotiations went south in early March, he started alikening Republicans to terrorists and the budget battle to warfare. On Monday night, he basically said the Republicans weren't doing anything. He questioned whether they even deseverd to collect their paychecks.

After his first 100 days in office, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoyed a 56 percent approval rating. He received overwhelmingly support from Republicans and a split rating from Democrats. Brown's work is approved of by two-thirds of Democrats but just a quarter of Republicans.

Around the 160th day of Schwarzenegger's first year in office, the Field Poll asked voters "Do you think the state's budget deficit can be resolved this year without having to raise taxes or do you think that taxes will have to be raised?" Six in ten registered voters--and majorities across all the parties--said yes, taxes would have to be raised. Those taxes eventually came in February 2009 under a deal agreed too by two-thirds of lawmakers.

Three months later, two in three voters struck down a ballot proposition, which didn't even include the word "tax" but would have made those tax hikes expire in 2013 instead of four months from now.

Now, Brown wants to extend those tax increases through 2016. While a Field Poll last week concluded that "there is no great willingness on the part of voters to increase taxes as a way of dealing with the [$26.6 billion] budget deficit," a majority of California voters did support the idea of extending the current increases.

Brown's highest approval rating during his first go-around as governor was 69 percent, three points shy of the all-time leader Republican George Deukmejian's record 72 percent in Aug. 1985.

When the results of Tuesday's Field Poll are compared to CNN exit polls from last November's gubernatorial election, support for Brown appears to have dropped among young adults and to have picked up among senior citizens. Higher education would take a $1.4 billion hit in the budget approved by legislators. Social services benefitting seniors would face a similar cut.

Reach deputy editor Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.



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