Sunday, February 25, 2024

Outsiders love to bash California but residents also mourn the state

While Republican presidential candidates are slogging through Iowa and talking to voters ahead of this week’s caucuses, it’s common to bash California.

Los Angeles Times reporter Seema Mehta picked up on the event, writing that “the Golden State, its elected leaders and its policies are a constant target.”

“Bashing California, one of the most liberal states in the country, is a huge GOP tradition,” Mehta said. “But the Republican presidential candidates may be targeting the state and its politicians more this cycle because they are better targets than President Biden.”

“Biden is not as motivated by a villain as other Democrats. So the Republican candidates are essentially running a negative campaign against California,” California politics scholar Dan Schnur told Mehta. .” The worst thing Ron DeSantis could think of to say about Nikki Haley during the debate was that she might be more liberal than (Gov.) Gavin Newsom. For an Iowa Republican — or any Republican for that matter — that’s an absolutely terrifying concept.

California may be the state that many in the rest of the country love to hate, but a new poll of Californians shows they’re not confident about the state either.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that only 33% of California voters believe the state is headed in the right direction while 57% say it is negative.

“This is a somewhat more negative assessment than voters have given similar measures taken over the past 11 years,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo.

The sour attitude extends to Newsom, the poll found. Asked about his job performance, 47% of voters surveyed disapproved and 46% approved. That’s a slight improvement from the 49% to 46% ratio pollsters found in October.

“However, similar to the October survey, twice the number of voters who said they strongly disapproved of the governor’s performance (33%) than strongly agreed (17%),” said DiCamillo.

The poll introduced a new topic — the massive budget deficit that Newsom and the Legislature must address this year — and found that nearly 90% of voters consider it a serious issue. and almost no support (13%) for raising taxes to solve it. . Instead, voters prefer Newsom and lawmakers to cut spending (51%) or tap into state reserves (35%) to cover the deficit, which Newsom pegged at $38 billion but budget analysts in the Legislature estimated at $68 billion.

Newsom has also avoided raising taxes, but progressive lawmakers, with support from groups that rely on the state budget, such as public employee unions, continue to push for higher personal taxes. and corporate income and/or a new wealth tax.

It appears that by cutting or postponing some spending, using reserves, borrowing from special funds and implementing some accounting gimmicks, the governor and the Legislature will be able to create a 2024-25 budget without new taxes.

However, Newsom’s budget advisers and those in the Legislature also agree that California faces continued multibillion-dollar deficits for the next several years, at least, which means the debate over spending cuts and taxes will continue for the rest of Newsom’s governorship.

“The survey suggests little appetite for tax increases to address the deficit, but one challenge for Governor Newsom and the Legislature is that while spending cuts are, in principle, relatively popular, that support is likely to fade when it comes time to make cuts to specific programs and services,” the poll’s co-director, Eric Schickler said.

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few years working for newspapers in California. He has written more than 9,000 columns about California and its politics and his column has appeared in many other California newspapers. He writes for CalMatters.org a nonprofit, non-partisan media venture that explains policies and politics in California.

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