Poll suggests Californians fed up with big government, public employees

Could California be on the verge of supporting Wisconsin-like reforms? A recent Reason-Rupe poll of likely voters found that state residents are open to curbing public employee benefits as well as cutting back government spending instead of raising taxes.

For starters, 53 percent of Californians say unions have too much power when negotiating their pay and benefits, while only 15 percent say too little and just 24 percent say they have the right amount. Even more residents — 67 percent — believe public employees get better benefits than private sector counterparts while only 11 percent say they get worse benefits.

In light of the fact that most public employees typically have guaranteed pensions, while most private sector workers get payments from “401(k)-style” accounts, 69 percent favor shifting new public employees — who have not yet been promised any pension benefits — away from guaranteed pensions to 401(k)s. Twenty-four percent oppose this.

Furthermore, 62 percent of Californians favor reducing the number of state employees to help balance the budget, with only 33 percent of residents are opposed to this.

Reigning in of public employee unions doesn’t stop at the state level, however, as 77 percent favor requiring local public employees to contribute more to their pensions and health care benefits.

Also, 42 percent say that public employee unions have done more to hurt the state and local economy while only 17 percent say they have helped. Seventy-four percent also favor allowing the public to vote on public employee benefit and pension increases, while only 22 percent say that shouldn’t be the case.

Specifically, when it comes to state prison guards — who make on average $104,000 per year in salary and benefits — 53 percent say they are overpaid and only 6 percent say paid too little. Thirty-eight percent say paid the right amount.

While the blue state’s residents are willing to cut spending, 58 percent are opposed eliminating the state income tax. Only 36 percent were in favor.

Fully 58 percent of California likely voters say that the state is on the wrong track and only 34 percent say it is on the right track.

The majority of likely voters — 56 percent — favor bringing spending back down to where it was in 2000. In fact, 52 percent of voters say the 42 percent increase in state spending between 2000 and 2010 has decreased the quality of life for state residents.

More interestingly, the average answer for how much of each dollar the state wastes was 49 cents — meaning likely voters think that nearly half of what the state spends is wasted.

Also, if Proposition 30 — a measure to increase that sales tax and income taxes for on the wealthy — doesn’t help to close the state budget deficit, most voters — 74 percent favor cutting state spending rather than increasing taxes. Only 15 percent say the state should raise taxes to close the gap.

Fifty-nine percent also favor allowing private companies to run some state parks to alleviate budget woes.

Sixty-five percent also say that state laws and regulations passed by legislature move jobs to other states and only 24 percent they create jobs in California.

Since June of this year, three California cities — Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes — have sought Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection due to financial troubles. As such, it may be hard for local governments to get more out of their tax base as local governments face a similar opposition to taxes as well as 71 percent of likely California voters oppose localities raising taxes to get finances in order, with only 25 percent favoring that strategy.

Sixty-three percent also favor local governments selling off assets, like golf courses and parking lots to get their finances in order and 60 percent favor outsourcing services, like trash and road maintenance, to private companies.

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