SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown is getting a lot of love from California voters.

A poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California says strong majorities of likely voters approve of his overall handling of the job and of the budget proposal he released earlier this month.

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Six in 10 likely voters said they approve of Brown’s job performance, including 57 percent of independents.

His budget proposal, which funnels more money to K-12 education, devotes $11 billion to paying down state debt and saves $1.6 billion in a rainy day fund, has bipartisan support in the survey. When read a brief description of his proposal, 75 percent of likely voters approved. That’s the highest level of support for a budget plan by the Democratic governor.

Support for Brown’s spending plan was deep even across party lines, with 66 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of independents in favor.

Those are strong numbers as the governor enters a campaign year in which he is expected to run for re-election, although support could erode as his proposal works its way through a Legislature dominated by Democrats who are intent on finding ways to spend the state’s budget surplus.

Lawmakers have until mid-June to send the governor their own version of a balanced budget for the fiscal year that starts in July.

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The survey also touched on a number of other issues, including the federal health care reforms, the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, proposed changes to Proposition 13 and California’s water crisis.

The economy, education and the state budget dominated the concerns Californians want the governor and Legislature to address, as they do in nearly every public opinion poll. But this month’s Public Policy Institute survey added a new priority.

Seven percent of Californians say water and the drought should be the top concern, a record high. That sentiment was highest in the Central Valley, where 18 percent of respondents listed the drought as the top issue.

Despite a storm that began moving into Northern California on Wednesday, the state is in the midst of a record dry spell that prompted Brown to declare an official drought. That declaration can help bring relief to communities concerned about running out of water and farmers who are having to fallow their fields.

The Public Policy Institute of California poll surveyed 1,700 adults and 1,150 likely voters by telephone from Jan. 14-21. The margin of sampling error for likely voters is 4.6 percent.

Other findings:

  • Results were mixed on the federal Affordable Care Act, with 44 percent of adults holding a favorable view and 46 percent an unfavorable one.
  • 85 percent of likely voters said the amount of money being spent by the state and local governments on public employee pensions and other retirement costs is a big problem or somewhat of a problem.
  • 73 percent of likely voters favor changing the public pension system for new employees to a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k).
  • 51 percent of likely voters oppose changing Proposition 13 to lower the vote threshold from two-thirds to 55 percent for passing new local special taxes; Democrats in the Legislature are considering placing such a question on the November ballot.
  • 59 percent of likely voters favor a different modification of Proposition 13, one that would tax commercial properties at their current market value. Proposition 13 is the 1978 ballot initiative that rolled back property tax assessments and capped the amount they could rise each year.
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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.