SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A majority of California voters say improving the state’s water systems and creating a high-speed rail network are important, but they want to see smaller price tags attached to those projects, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 51 percent of likely voters would vote against the $11.1 billion water bond that is scheduled for the November 2014 ballot, while 42 percent expressed support. When voters were asked how they would feel about a less costly proposal, support increased to 55 percent.
Likely voters expressed a similar sentiment about the $68 billion high-speed rail project, with 43 percent in favor and 54 percent opposed. When asked about support for a less expensive project, 55 percent of likely voters said they would be in favor while 42 percent said they would not.
A less costly high-speed rail project that would connect the entire state is not something that is being seriously considered at this time. Gov. Jerry Brown is a champion of the original plan.
Caution about increased state spending is a result of the recession’s effect on California, said Mark Baldassare, the poll’s director and the institute’s chief executive. During the late 1990s or early 2000s, Californians were more willing than they are now to take on debt, he said.
“Being in a period where we just recently got out of a structural deficit in the state budget, the lingering effect is Californians are very reluctant toward big-ticket items,” he said.
The Legislature has twice postponed a public vote on the water bond since authorizing it for the ballot in 2009. Whatever version makes the ballot next year will almost certainly be less than the original $11 billion.
In February, lawmakers held a hearing to discuss how much debt should be taken on for water-related projects.
Voters authorized about $9 billion in bonds for the high-speed rail line in 2008, but support has dropped as the price tag has ballooned. Work on the rail line’s first segment is scheduled to begin in July, with officials voting earlier this week to issue nearly $8.6 billion from the voter-approved bonds.
Two out of three California adults said a high-speed rail system is important to the state’s future, while three in four Californians said passing a state water bond is important.
The institute’s survey also asked about another major policy issue in the capital this year, proposed changes to the California Environmental Quality Act. Survey respondents were divided about the value of current environmental regulations.
Asked whether strict environmental laws cost too many jobs or are worth the cost, 49 percent of likely voters said too many jobs are jeopardized while 46 percent said the rules are worth the cost.
The poll also found a majority of Californians — including more than half of respondents across various ethnic groups — have negative impressions of the Republican Party.
That view was strongest among blacks, at 79 percent, and Asians, 66 percent. Among Latinos, 51 percent said they view the Republican Party unfavorably while 70 percent view the Democratic Party favorably. Asked which party is more concerned about their needs, 57 percent of Californians said Democrats and 25 percent pointed to Republicans.
Among the survey’s other findings:
—Most likely voters in California, 62 percent, favor a nationwide ban on ammunition clips that hold more than 10 bullets. Two in three support creating a federal database to track all gun sales.
—On immigration, 59 percent of likely voters favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants while 78 percent support stricter border control to try to reduce illegal immigration.
—Reducing the deficit is the top federal policy priority among likely voters, even as they expect to see consequences from the recent federal budget cuts. A major effect is expected to be felt by 35 percent of Californians, with 39 percent responding that the cuts will have a minor effect on their finances.
The Public Policy Institute surveyed 1,703 California adults by landline or cellphone from March 5-12. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points among all adults and 4.6 percent for the 1,138 likely voters.