SAN FRANCISCO — While many Californians do not feel their state government is working well, they are also skeptical of proposals to reform it, according to the results of a Public Policy Institute of California survey released last week.
“Change is in the air, but Californians are proceeding with caution,” Mark Baldassare, the PPIC’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “They are generally satisfied with the changes they’ve made to the constitution, and most do not think it needs major revisions.”
The public opinion survey was conducted with 2,006 California residents between Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, in the wake of the state’s third protracted budget revision fight in less than a year.
The PPIC found that 96% of those surveyed viewed the budget situation as a problem, with 78% calling it a big problem.
The survey found residents saying that they were willing to consider changes to the budget process, including 65% who responded that it would be a good idea to strictly limit annual increases in state spending, and 53% saying it would be a good idea to lower the required threshold for budget passage to 55% of the Legislature from two-thirds.
Voters in the past have soundly rejected ballot measures proposing those very ideas.
In the new survey, 50% also said it would be a good idea to permit special local taxes to be imposed or increased with a 55% vote of the people, down from the current two-thirds.
The idea of overhauling the state’s constitution fared less well.
Only 33% of those surveyed said major changes to the constitution are needed, while 36% said minor changes are needed and 24% said no changes are needed.
In June, the state’s voters will have a ballot measure that would adopt an open primary system, which would send the top two vote getters in primary elections for statewide offices, the Legislature, and Congress into a general election regardless of party.
The PPIC said a strong 70% majority called that proposal a good idea, up from 61% from the last time it asked the question, in March.
Another much-ballyhooed proposal to convert the Legislature back to part-time status was not so popular; 44% said it would be a bad thing, 23% a good thing, and 27% said it would make no difference.
Participants in the PPIC survey also sent mixed messages about term limits and the state’s Proposition 13 property tax limits.
Fifty-five percent said Proposition 13 was a good thing, but in a separate question, 58% of those surveyed said it would be a good idea to enact a so-called split roll, in which commercial property values are no longer capped by the Prop. 13 formula and are instead taxed based on current market value.
And 59% said term limits for the Legislature are a good thing, while 65% also said it would be a good idea to modify term limits by reducing the total number of years lawmakers could serve to 12 from 14, but removing limits on each house. Lawmakers are currently limited to six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate.