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Support for California governor's tax measure sags, under 50 percent

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Support for California Governor Jerry Brown's November ballot measure to raise taxes has dropped below 50 percent due to competition from a rival measure and doubts the state spends money wisely, according to survey results released on Thursday.

The survey by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found 46 percent of the most populous U.S. state's voters favoring the measure and 42 percent opposed. Eleven percent are undecided and 1 percent declined to comment.

The measure's level of support has dropped from 55 percent in September. Opposition has increased from 36 percent last month, when 8 percent were undecided and 1 percent declined to comment.

The measure, known as Proposition 30, would temporarily increase the state's sales tax as well as income tax rates for the wealthy. Revenue raised by the measure would be used to prevent spending cuts to education programs in the near term and to bolster the state's general fund in coming years.

The measure faces competition from Proposition 38, which would raise personal income tax rates on annual earnings on all but the poorest Californians to raise money for school spending, early childhood programs and to repay state debt.

Proposition 38 appears to be stealing votes from Proposition 30, which also faces voter skepticism that California's government can be trusted to handle its funds well, said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

"Jerry Brown has successfully convinced Californians that putting additional money into public schools is a good thing, but he has not yet convinced them that the state government can spend the money effectively," Schnur said.

Californians also do not appear ready for a broad-based tax increase. The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found Proposition 38 favored by 31 percent by voters and opposed by 55 percent. Twelve percent are undecided and 2 percent declined to comment.

Poll results released on Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California found 39 percent of likely voters backing Proposition 38 and 53 percent opposed.

The Institute poll also found Brown's measure favored by 48 percent of voters and opposed by 44 percent.

Results released earlier this month of a survey for the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy showed 49.5 percent of likely voters supporting Brown's measure, down from 57.5 percent who backed it in late September.

(Reporting By Jim Christie; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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