Stop Spending But Don't Cut Anything

Wednesday, Mar 24, 2010  |  Updated 9:00 AM PDT
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Californians want their lawmakers to solve the state's budget crisis, as long as it doesn't require any significant spending cuts, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Field Poll found that state voters oppose nearly all cutbacks that could help reduce the $20 billion budget deficit.

The poll covered 14 areas of state government spending, including education, public transportation and public assistance programs for low-income families.

In 10 of those areas, a majority of voters opposed making any spending cuts. In six areas, fewer than a third of voters surveyed said they would support cutbacks.

The findings came one day after another Field Poll revealed that voters rank the budget as one of the most pressing problems facing the state. Yet they are clearly conflicted about possible solutions.

The least popular cut was public education spending, with nearly 80 percent saying they oppose any reduction in state funding. Last year's budget devoted $48 billion to public education, making it the state's largest expenditure.

The only two areas where voters supported cutbacks -- by a slim majority -- were state prisons and state parks. Two years ago, a similar Field Poll found that the majority of voters opposed cuts in those areas.

State prisons account for nearly 11 percent of general fund spending. In January, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a constitutional amendment capping prison spending at 7 percent of the general fund and guaranteeing that prisons would never again receive more money than higher education.

After threatening to close 220 of California's 279 state parks last year, Schwarzenegger is now seeking to raise money for parks by expanding oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast.

Californians were split evenly when it came to cutbacks in public transportation and funding for environmental regulation, the Field Poll found.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats and decline-to-state voters to support reining in spending, endorsing cutbacks in six of the 14 areas, the poll found. That included cuts to welfare and child-care programs.

Only one type of cut -- prison spending -- received majority support from Democrats, with 61 percent saying they favored it.

The poll was based on a telephone survey of 503 registered voters from March 9-15. The sampling error rate was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, higher for subgroups of voters.

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