Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dan Walters: Where is Representation for California's Majority Moderates?

Dan Walters: Field Poll shows California's wide divide

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
About 90 percent of the men and women who hold seats in the Legislature are either true-blue liberals or red-meat conservatives even though polls have consistently indicated that only about half of California's voters fall into those categories.

That's another way of saying that the state's moderate Democrats, centrist Republicans and independent voters – half of the electorate – have only scant representation in the Capitol.

The stark contrast between the political dynamics inside the Capitol and the reality outside its impervious granite walls is one of the major impediments to timely and effective political decision-making. Those inside the building engage in ideological gamesmanship. Those outside just want politicians to do their jobs, even if that requires compromise.

The division is especially evident in the Capitol's endless skirmishes over the state budget, particularly on how to close the chronic gap between the spending promises that legislators and voters have enacted, and the revenue that the tax system can produce.

What used to be an annual battle has more recently become a perpetual one because the recession has widened the income-outgo gap. The Capitol is now engaged in another of its melodramatic clashes, with initial floor votes on Gov. Jerry Brown's plan scheduled for today.

Brown and other Democrats want to ask voters to extend billions of dollars in temporary tax hikes that otherwise will expire, while Republicans balk and – without being specific – say spending should be slashed instead.

A new poll by the Field Research Corp., the state's most venerable pollster, and UC Berkeley neatly frames the gap between the state's politicians and its voters.

In general, the Field/UC poll found that voters support – albeit not by a particularly wide margin – Brown's plan to both cut spending and extend the temporary taxes, but they would oppose anything labeled as new and additional taxes.

That's why Brown is increasingly desperate to get his plan through the Legislature – as written it would require at least four Republican votes – and onto a special election ballot in June. He and other supporters want to call them tax extensions and not the tax increases they would become after June 30.

Thus the Field/UC poll simultaneously bolsters Brown's case and indicates that he has a narrow margin of public support.

And while liberals may cheer voter approval of tax extensions, conservatives can take heart from the voters' strong dislike of relying primarily on revenue to close the budget gap.

The poll implies that were Brown's plan to make the June ballot – no better than a 50-50 bet at this moment – its success or failure would hinge largely on how it's defined to voters in what would likely be a low-turnout election.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment