Poll: Californians Want Universal Health Coverage, Free Community College

With the election over, Californians are letting Governor-elect Gavin Newsom know what their priorities are. (Jeff Chiu/AP/Pool)

In a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, 60 percent of adults said universal health coverage should be a high or very high priority.

“The election polls indicated that health care was a major concern for Californians," said Mark Baldassare, president of PPIC. "And that seems to be reflected here."

Governor-elect Gavin Newsom often campaigned on universal health coverage. But another one of his priorities, universal preschool, gets less support from Californians. Just 48 percent of adults said it should be a top priority for new state funding. There's more interest on the other end of the education spectrum. Fifty-three percent of adults believe the state should provide tuition-free community college.

All of these initiatives would be expensive, and Baldassare said there's no consensus on how to pay for them.

"About half of Californians say that they're willing to pay higher taxes and have more services. But almost as many say that they're not," he said. "So therein lies the challenge for the governor-elect and the Legislature."

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And while the State Department of Finance says California has a $2 billion surplus with an additional $14 billion reserved in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, Californians are getting more anxious about the economy.

Just 46 percent believe the state will have good financial times in the coming year. Half of adults believe children growing up today will be worse off financially than their parents.

One thing people don't want to see their taxes spent on? High-speed rail. Ten years after voters approved a $9.95 billion bond measure to build it, just 25 percent of adults said the project should be a high priority for the state.

"For whatever reason, the high-speed rail hasn't really captured people's attention and imagination in a way that would lead them to think 'let's put the extra dollars in here because this is what California's future is all about,'" Baldassare said.

With such low levels of support, it's possible high-speed rail could get pushed to the back of the funding line, as more attractive programs compete for limited resources. And opponents of the project are promoting a 2020 ballot measure to kill it altogether.

High-speed rail has been a top priority of Gov. Jerry Brown, but Governor-elect Gavin Newsom seems willing to scale back the project given cost overruns and its inability to attract private funding.

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