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Californians mixed on Brown budget plan: poll

California Governor Jerry Brown introduces his budget proposal in Sacramento.
California Governor Jerry Brown introduces his budget proposal in Sacramento.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Californians are mixed on Governor Jerry Brown's plan to close a $10 billion budget gap, a survey showed on Wednesday, complicating the debate over a spending plan two weeks before its deadline.

Brown, a Democrat, is fighting two battles: He needs to convince Republicans that tax hikes are needed and to persuade lawmakers in both state houses that key budget proposals should be put to a popular vote.

California, at the heart of the U.S. mortgage crisis, is the biggest issuer of municipal debt and its fortunes are seen as a harbinger for other states.

Troubles in the most populous U.S. state are also seen as a potential danger for the federal government.

Spending cuts and an influx of unexpected revenue, thanks to a reviving economy, have cut more than half of the roughly $25 billion deficit California began the year with. But talks to solve the remaining $10 billion gap are showing no signs of progress as a largely symbolic mid-June deadline approaches.

In the survey, 62 percent of likely voters approved the general outlines of Brown's budget plan, revised in May, including already-made cuts and proposed extensions of taxes to increase funding for schools.

But they largely balked at the individual revenue-raising components of his plan, such as extending the sales tax, vehicle taxes and personal income tax hikes for several years, the poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed.

Support for those proposals was just 46 percent in the survey of 1,338 registered voters, including 989 considered likely voters, contacted May 17-24.

Most of those surveyed wanted voters to have a say in state budget decisions, backing Brown's view that there should be a special election on the budget.

Brown, who served two terms as governor in the 1970s and 1980s, has burnished his reputation for being tightfisted, slashing prison administrators, state agencies and even mobile phone use by state workers. But those savings pale in comparison to the remaining budget gap.

The poll showed Californians were open to cuts in the massive prison budget but did not want decreases in the other three top spending categories: primary education, higher education and social services.

Brown, who took office in January, has seen his approval rating steadying at around 46 percent of likely voters after a dip earlier in the year.

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