Californians Split On Spending Surplus

The 2016 Statewide Survey released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of California asked Californians about spending the state’s estimated $2 billion surplus and gave them a choice: whether they would spend it on debt relief for the state, or to replace previously-cut social service programs.

The short answer: It’s 50-50. Or rather, according to survey statistics, it’s 48-48 — since 48 percent of Californians polled chose paying down the debt and 48 percent chose restoring social service cuts (with 4 percent in the “don’t know” category).

Among likely voters in California, those numbers skewed more toward debt repayment, with 54 percent siding with debt funding over only 42 percent for putting that money toward social services.

Health care advocates could take heart in the slight shift in Californians’ opinions since the survey starting posing that question in January 2013. Back then, only 38 percent of likely voters sided with social services funding.

“Since we began asking this question,” the survey said, “majorities of adults have almost always preferred paying down debt.”

Mark Baldassare, the president and CEO of PPIC, said those polled are generally divided over the proposed 2016-17 state budget.

“The governor’s budget proposal is receiving mixed reviews from the California public,” Baldassare said in a written statement. “Californians are divided on whether to use surplus revenues to restore funding for social programs or build up the reserve, and most residents would rather fund road improvements through surplus funds and state bonds than vehicle fees and gasoline taxes.”

The report also pointed out a partisan trend on spending preferences, with 71 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of independents opting for debt repayment and building up reserves, while 58 percent of Democrats came down on the side of funding social service programs.

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