California Gov. Jerry Brown
Whatever you think of the tax and pension policy Gov. Jerry Brown is pursuing, he seems to be getting the politics right.
Recent polls show California voters warming to Brown's difficult-to-sell proposals on taxes (he wants to increase sales taxes and income taxes on individuals making $250,000 or more) and on pensions (he has a 12-point proposal that could rein in pension abuses, particularly at the local level).
A new PPIC poll found 60 percent of voters supporting Brown's initiative -- albeit after they were read a favorable and slightly misleading description of the tax initiative. (The initiative is framed as a budget balancing measure in the poll even though it's structured in a way that the money doesn't go directly to the budget). The same poll, and a recent poll from Field, show voters warming to the idea of pension changes -- and favorably disposed to Brown's package of changes.
This support is an impressive political achievement. It is very, very difficult to win support for measures that take money away from people -- whether through higher taxes or less generous pensions.
The difficulty will be maintaining that support, in the face of the normal reaction against taxes or givebacks and in the face of criticism about flaws in both Brown proposals.
Can Brown pull it off? The odds are still probably against him. But he has an unusually good chance of making progress on both issues.