SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Californians would overwhelmingly back extending temporary tax increases to help balance the state's budget if asked to in a special election, according to survey results released on Wednesday.
The results of the statewide survey conducted by the University of California, Berkeley and The Field Poll were released ahead of votes scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in California's Senate and Assembly on Governor Jerry Brown's state budget plan.
The cornerstone of Brown's plan is putting tax extensions to voters in a ballot measure in a special election in June. He has proposed more than $12 billion in spending cuts and raising revenue by extending tax increases that expire this year for five years to help fill the state's massive budget gap and bolster its finances in coming years.
California has the biggest deficit of any U.S. state and the fight among its leaders over how to balance the state's books comes as lawmakers in Washington keep a close eye on fiscal troubles in nearly every statehouse.
California's budget shortfall was initially estimated at more than $25 billion through mid-2012 but it may now be near $27 billion because plans to sell some state properties have been scrapped.
Brown's fellow Democrats, who control the legislature, back his call for a tax measure but lack the votes to put it to voters on their own. Most Republican lawmakers oppose a tax measure, though some are in talks with Brown that may help him win votes for a measure.
The survey found that, by a 58 percent to 39 percent margin, voters said they would vote in favor of a ballot measure asking them to extend temporary tax increases.
Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said voters have become accustomed to the taxation levels of recent years and want a say in the fate of the state budget.
The survey found 61 percent of voters prefer calling a special election to settle the state's budget issues, compared with 36 percent who would leave it to lawmakers.
"Part of the reason they would like to call a special election to do it themselves is that they don't trust the legislature," said Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll.
The survey was conducted from February 28 through March 14 and contacted 898 registered voters by telephone, holding interviews in English and Spanish.
The survey's maximum sampling error for its overall registered voters sample is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
(Reporting by Jim Christie; editing by Todd Eastham)