Voters want reserve funds used for state debt, poll says

New USC/LAT poll shows debt payments are a priority for California voters

Paying down debt is the best use of the state’s reserve fund, voters say in a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

Using the money to fund public pensions and healthcare for retired state workers is the least popular option, according to the survey, which measured views on a variety of state issues.

How to handle California’s long-term finances has been a key issue this year, as the recession fades in the rearview mirror and state revenue continues to climb.

Twenty-four percent of voters favored debt payment. Twenty-one percent said state leaders should restore services cut during the recession, 16% said all of the money should be saved for future emergencies and 15% said the funds should be returned to Californians in the form of tax cuts.

Fourteen percent said the money should be used to cover the cost of pensions and healthcare for public workers, where the state has faced substantial shortfalls.

Lawmakers recently passed a proposed constitutional amendment that they say would help stabilize California’s budget. Under that measure, a portion of the state’s revenue would be set aside in a reserve each year to cushion the state against economic downturns. Another portion would be used to chip away at debt and other long-term costs.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, and American Viewpoint, a Republican company. They surveyed 1,511 registered state voters by telephone May 21-28. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Look for more poll findings in coming days at latimes.com.

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