SACRAMENTO — Californians are more optimistic about the direction of their state and the condition of its economy than they have been in years, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The upbeat outlook comes weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown announced that the state's deficit had been wiped out with help from tax hikes approved by voters in November. In the poll, the governor received his highest approval rating since being elected in 2010.
Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they approved of Brown's job performance, up from 41% in September. Although Californians remain concerned about the state budget, for the first time in six years a majority of residents said the state was headed in the right direction.
"Right now, people are happy about the way it's worked out," said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive of the Public Policy Institute of California.
The poll findings were released as state finances were further bolstered by an unexpected surge in revenue, with tax receipts coming in at $5 billion above projections in January. On Thursday, the Wall Street rating agency Standard and Poor's bumped California up a notch, a nod that the state is moving in the right direction.
The boost to an "A" grade means California no longer has the lowest credit rating of any state (that's now Illinois). The agency said in a report, however, that it views the state's "budget repair effort as a work in progress."
As the state regains its financial footing, the governor's plan to shift more dollars to school districts with high numbers of English learners and students from low-income families appears popular. The poll showed 75% of respondents, including a majority of Republicans, support the idea.
Even lawmakers are regaining ground. The Legislature's approval rating, as low as 9% in the institute's polls in recent years, has rebounded to 41%.