Proposition 30, the Schools and Public Safety Protection Act, proposes to raise personal income tax rates on individuals making more than $250,000 a year for the next seven years and to increase the state sales tax by a quarter of a cent for the next four years. According to the measure’s authors, the additional revenue will fund education and public safety.
The additional $6 billion will fund education and public safety. Of the new educational funds, 89 percent will be allocated to K-12 and 11 percent to community colleges.
Many who support Proposition 30, recognize it as a bargain struck by Gov. Jerry Brown to provide education funding when he could not get an agreement to raise personal income taxes for that funding through the California Legislature. Instead, Brown launched a petition drive and got Proposition 30 on the ballot as an initiative constitutional amendment. Cuts to education and public safety are triggered if the initiative fails. And as critics and proponents acknowledge, there is no Plan B.
Education and pubic safety funding assumptions were built into this year’s fiscal budget and predicated on the passage of Proposition 30. Should voters reject the measure, cuts to education and public safety (support to counties for realignment) would be necessitated. School boards throughout the state could be forced to make reductions in the length of the second half of the school year or make other cuts to deal with lack of anticipated revenue. These would come on top of a 7.9 percent drop in per-student spending over the last four years, as reported by Moody’s Investors Services.
Critics argue the measure does not address fundamental problems in the state’s budget system that should be addressed by the state’s elected officials rather than by the public as part of the initiative process. They also note the California Legislature’s authorization for $5 billion in state bonds for a bullet train rather than dealing with education funding have soured some on voting for the measure.
Failure of the measure to pass would impact K-12, community colleges and both the University of California and California State University systems. It would also impact state funds that are to be directed to counties to support realignment — ongoing expense to municipalities incurred through movement of nonviolent and nonserious state prisoners to county jails and supervision of those on parole.
California has been under a federal court order to reduce its overcrowded prisons. A year after realignment began, California prison populations have been reduced nearly 30,000 to just under 120,000, near the court-mandated 110,000.
Also affected would be state social services. Bill McGowan, president of the California State Association of Counties, said if the measure fails, “There will be less cops on the street, beds in the jail, mental health programs we [counties] provide.”
Critics counter that the measure is a shell game that won’t fix fundamental underlying state budget processes and spending, including public agency pensions.
Estimates of the additional revenue vary. The LAO estimates $6.8 billion and Brown’s office projects $9 billion. Critics argue there is no explicit guarantee that revenue would be a “new” source of education funding, and that Proposition 30 revenues could be used to backfill funds owed to schools by previously passed Proposition 98 or for other state purposes.
Of $61.8 million contributed to support the measure, the largest donors are the California Teachers Association, the California State Council of Service Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, the Democratic State Central Committee, the Coca-Cola Company and the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. The largest single donation in support (the California Teachers Association) is $10.4 million.
Of $52.9 million contributed to oppose the measure, the largest single donor is Charles Munger, who contributed just less than $35 million. Americans for Responsible Leadership, headed by candidate for Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham, has invested $11 million. Other opponents include the California Republican Party, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, the National Federation of Independent Business California, the Small Business Action Committee and many chambers of commerces throughout the state.
Editorial opinion throughout the state is divided. The Fresno Bee, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, San Bernardino Sun and the Ventura County Sun favor Proposition 30’s passage; while the Orange County Register, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune oppose it.
Critics credit falling support for the measure (at 46 percent “yes” to 42 percent “no,” according to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll) to the public’s distrust of elected officials’ promises, in this case to use the revenue as the measure intends. They also note the inclusion of a sales tax increase, even if marginal, has stoked opposition within the electorate.