Voters Reject California Bailout

Following up on Adam’s post on the latest call for a federal bailout of big-spending California, a new Rasmussen poll finds that a majority of voters reject the idea of a Golden State bailout. That sentiment holds even when the issue is framed as a choice between a bailout or massive cuts in welfare and entitlement programs:

[California Governor Arnold] Schwarzenegger reportedly intends to ask this week for a federal bailout to keep his state from going bankrupt. But most voters have never been fans of any kind of federal bailout, and most continue to oppose a bailout for California, even when told what specific budget cuts may be necessary.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows just 27% of voters nationwide believe the federal government should provide bailout funding for California. Fifty-five percent (55%) think the federal government should let the state go bankrupt instead. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.

No matter how you frame the choice for voters, bailing out California is unpopular.

Schwarzenegger himself has said that California may seek $8 billion in federal funding assistance. When we ask about that request without mentioning the trade-off of filing bankruptcy, only 16% of voters nationally favor the bailout. Sixty-eight percent (68%) oppose an $8-billion bailout for California, with another 16% undecided.

Without the federal bailout, Schwarzenegger has said California will have to cut back the state’s main welfare program and reduce health care services for the disabled and elderly. He also says a 14% cut in pay for state workers may be necessary.

Just 33% of voters nationwide favor a bailout to avoid these cuts on the state level. However, 53% say the state should cut back on welfare programs, health services and the state payroll. Fourteen percent (14%) aren’t sure.

The evidence continues to mount that, despite conventional political wisdom, most voters are more concerned with fiscal responsibility in their statehouses than preserving unsustainable state government programs at all costs. This creates a huge opportunity for policymakers to build public support for aggressive reform agendas that include privatization, streamlining, program/agency elimination, budget process reinvention and a variety of other smart strategies to reduce the price of government.

Reason Foundation’s California Research and Commentary
Reason Foundation’s Privatization Research and Commentary