SACRAMENTO (AP) — California's undecided voters will determine the fate of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative as the latest public opinion survey shows support slipping below the majority needed for passage.
The Field Poll released Thursday on Brown's Proposition 30 found that support has slipped from 51 percent in favor in mid-September to 48 percent supporting. While 38 percent of likely voters say they oppose the initiative, 14 percent remain undecided.
Brown's initiative would raise about $6 billion a year and help close the state's budget deficit by raising the state sales tax by a quarter cent for four years and income taxes on those making more than $250,000 annually for seven years.
The poll also surveyed Proposition 38, a competing tax initiative that would send more money to public schools. That initiative is trailing among likely voters, 34 percent in favor compared with 49 percent against. Another 17 percent were undecided.
That initiative is mainly funded by Molly Munger, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney and daughter of a partner of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. founder Warren Buffett.
Field surveyed 1,566 registered voters by telephone Oct. 17-30. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points. The survey was conducted in six languages and dialects, including English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said conventional wisdom suggests support for Proposition 30 would fall as the election nears, but the surveys show support has held relatively steady even if it has slipped a few points.
"No real significant change, and that's a pretty good omen for the governor," DiCamillo said. "It's not sinking like a stone as you sometimes see on a ballot initiative as you get closer to an election."
DiCamillo said Brown still has a decent chance of passing Proposition 30 if he can sway some of the undecided voters and turn out his supporters on Election Day.
"All Brown now needs is to get about 3 percent of the undecideds and hold on to his support and turn out his supporters, and this thing could pass," he said.
Both campaigns have criticized each other of deceiving voters through false ads and scare tactics.
Yes on Prop. 30 spokesman Dan Newman said more California voters continue to support the tax measure despite "tens of millions in false attack ads from mysterious opponents." He said the campaign will continue to fight to secure a majority vote next week.
Opponents said the poll numbers indicate that voters understand that Proposition 30 will not solve all the problems in education.
"Voters are seeing through the misleading Prop. 30 campaign and realizing the money is not guaranteed to go to the classroom and can be spent on whatever the politicians want," said No on Prop. 30 spokesman Aaron McLear.
It's not clear exactly how much has been raised in the campaigns for and against Proposition 30. According to campaign records as of Wednesday, the governor's main committee has raised nearly $37 million, but he is also benefiting from spending by labor unions and other groups.
Meanwhile, the Small Business Action Committee has raised $42.5 million to oppose Proposition 30 and support a separate anti-union initiative.
DiCamillo said Brown can look to some hopeful signs among the undecided voters. For example, the Field Poll found that more of them say they pay about the right amount in taxes than those who perceive themselves as paying too much and say they are very or somewhat concerned about spending cuts if Proposition 30 fails.