Capitol Alert

Is California prepared for a recession? Voters don’t think so.

Assembly budget committee chair Phil Ting discusses state budget, potential recession

Assemblyman Phil Ting, the chair of the Assembly budget committee, discusses the state budget and a potential recession on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018.
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Assemblyman Phil Ting, the chair of the Assembly budget committee, discusses the state budget and a potential recession on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018.

Most California voters don’t think the state is ready for a severe economic downturn, according to a new survey.

A poll from Probolsky Research, given exclusively to The Sacramento Bee, found 63 percent of voters — including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans — don’t think the state government is prepared for a recession.

Most of the 900 responses were collected by phone, while some were gathered online. Across all demographics, voters agreed the state is not prepared. The survey’s margin of error was 3.3 percentage points.

Adam Probolsky, president of the group that conducted the survey, was stunned by the results, given that public opinion polls generally show large differences in views by political party, age, race and likelihood to vote.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Probolsky said. “In America today, we don’t tend to see majorities agree on much. People are usually divided on subject matters. usually. There’s usually some group with a different perspective. In this case, they all agree that the state is not prepared. I think that’s a pretty clear indicator the public doesn’t have the confidence the state is saving for a rainy day.”

Probolsky believes the 2007-2008 financial crisis remains fresh in many voters’ minds, contributing to a feeling of personal financial uncertainty.

California’s latest budget heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom would boost the state’s reserves to about $20 billion, which is on the lower end of the $20 billion to $40 billion the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommends the state have on hand for a mild to moderate recession.

Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, worries the state is not prepared to deal with a potential recession.

“The fund is just another tool,” Nielsen said. “You can’t rely on that solely and that that’s going to buy our way out of a disastrous recession.”

Senate leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said after the budget passed that the rainy day fund is not the only resource the state has to deal with an economic crisis. With the Great Recession looming in the back of her mind, Atkins insisted that boosting the state’s reserves remains a top priority.

“It’s uppermost in our minds that we have to be prepared,” Atkins said.

Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.
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