Virtually the entire political leadership in Sacramento took without questioning the view that the overwhelming loss of the special election is somehow a mandate for “living within our means” and deep, drastic cuts to the budget. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times (in multiple venues) and most other publications provided uncritical coverage of the Governor and even leading Democrats, parroting this theory that “the voters spoke” and the message was that only cuts would be allowable from this point forward.
Beware of any sentence that starts with the words “What the voters told us was…” Far too often in our politics, dishonest lawmakers decide that voters mandate their particular ideologies and preferred policy decisions regardless of the facts. Perhaps the only real message delivered from the voters to lawmakers was that the former doesn’t particularly like or trust the latter. But there are other possibilities. A new polling memo by David Binder Research details why Prop. 1A in particular failed, and the results do not match the Governor’s ramblings.
Contrary to what the Governor is saying after the defeat of his proposals, Prop 1A did not fail because voters delivered a message to “go all out” in cutting government spending. The all-time record low turnout for a statewide special election clearly demonstrates the lack of depth to that argument. Prop 1A did not
generate a spike in turnout and taxes were not cited as the main reason why voters overwhelmingly rejected Prop 1A. Support for a state budget that relies solely on spending cuts is very limited – even among those voting no on Prop 1a.
Voters in this election were more likely to be Republicans and less likely to be Independents, whereas Democratic voters came out in proportions consistent with past turnout. Of those that voted in this election, 43% were Democrats, 42% were Republicans and 15% were Independents or minor party voters. This past November, the electorate consisted of 46% Democrats, 32% Republicans and 22% Independents or minor party voters.
In November 2010, the electorate will be a group that is more supportive of the revenue options tested in the survey, and more strongly opposed to only using cuts to balance the state budget. While only 36% of voters that turned out for the May 19th election supported using entirely budget cuts to balance the budget, even fewer – only 24% — of non-voters felt the same way […]
Voters simply do not trust the leadership in Sacramento, and recognize that the failed special election was just another example of the inability to bring real solutions to voters. When given two choices, four out of five voters – even among those who voted ‘Yes’ on 1A – agreed that the special election was just another example of the failure of the Governor and Legislature, who should make the hard decisions necessary to really fix the budget. Only 20% agreed the special election was a sincere effort to fix the state’s budget mess.
I would argue that the voters feel no trust in the legislature because they see time and again policy solutions that stick the average Californian with the bill that the wealthy and well-connected don’t pay. The fact that the only permanent tax issue in the February budget was a $1 billion dollar tax cut for the largest corporations in America is a perfect example.
The polling memo also shows broad support for tax increases in a variety of areas, including wiping out this massive corporate tax cut:
75% support increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages (62% support among ‘No’ voters)
74% support increasing taxes on tobacco (62% support among ‘No’ voters)
73% support imposing an oil extraction tax on oil companies just like every other oil producing
state (60% support among ‘No’ voters)
63% support closing the loophole that allows corporations to avoid reassessment of the value of
new property they purchase (58% support among ‘No’ voters)
63% support increasing the top bracket of the state income tax from nine point three percent to
10 percent for families with taxable income over $272,000 a year and to eleven percent for
families with taxable incomes over $544,000 a year (51% support among ‘No’ voters)
59% support prohibiting corporations from using tax credits to offset more than fifty percent of the
taxes they owe (55% support among ‘No’ voters)
In addition, voters oppose the kind of spending cuts outlined by the Governor.
Now, I’m sure I’ll hear “eat it, you pipe dream librul hippie” because of the structural issues that prohibit these kind of tax solutions. But the reason that the legislature has such desperately low esteem right now is that they fail to publicly even advocate for the solutions Californians plainly want, or the breakage of the structural barriers that would provide it. This failure caused the May 19 debacle and will cause further problems for the Democrats in the state if they are not careful. A political party seen as devoid of principle will not be a successful political party forever. What Californians desire, essentially, is leadership. And they will punish those who refuse to give it to them.
UPDATE by Brian: I’ve posted the slides for the Binder Research presentation over the flip.