Editorial: Extension on taxes still a tough sell

Californians now appear to be inclined to extend tax increases to avoid further cuts in spending, according to a recent Los Angeles Times/USC poll.

In the survey of 1,503 registered California voters, 53 percent favored a combination of taxes and spending cuts to erase the remaining $14 billion deficit. Only 33 percent wanted the gap closed by spending cuts alone — and that figure dropped to 25 percent when respondents were told that schools would likely be hit with deeper cuts.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to get the extensions on a special June ballot. Now, the governor is looking at a fall election.

Better late than never, we suppose.

But despite the uptick in support shown by the recent survey, the taxes still will be a tough sell — especially since vehicle license fee and sales tax increases are due to expire this summer. So unless the Legislature agrees to temporarily extend the tax increases until the election — an unlikely scenario — that means they will be regarded as new taxes, rather than extensions. And new taxes have been especially unpopular with voters.

Still, we believe it’s worth the effort. The alternative — cutting another $14 billion from an already bare-bones budget — is unacceptable.

County Schools Superintendent Julian Crocker has given us an idea of the devastating effect on K-12 schools: The basic options are cutting salaries; laying off more teachers or dramatically shortening the school year — or a combination of the three.

Is that what we want? When many educational experts say that students would benefit from a longer school year, we may have to reduce it?

True, at this point, we are largely speculating on what cuts might occur. School districts and other local governments have not been specific about what might happen, and that’s a big part of the problem.

If governments want to convince voters that the tax extensions should (a) be placed on the ballot and (b) be approved, they must be much more vocal about what an “all cuts” budget fix would look like.

And so far, governments at every level have been strangely silent about that. They allude to additional layoffs, pay cuts and service reductions, but are short on details.

Surely, they have done the calculations. It’s time they shared them. If Californians are to make informed decisions about the budget, they shouldn’t have to guess about what the future might hold.