Proposition 30 Takes Center Stage
Proposition 30 is taking center stage in conversations across California, a state that faces an estimated $28 billion budget deficit.
In an effort to save public schools and public safety from further budget cuts, Governor Jerry Brown as presented Proposition 30, a new plan that would raise taxes to generate money for the state.
"If this initiative passes, then it will protect several types of government services, most notably, K-12 public education and public safety, from further budget cuts," said Dan Schnur, Director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.
If passed, Prop 30 would raise the state sales tax by .25 percent for four years. It would also raise the personal income tax rate for those who earn more than $250,000 per year for seven years.
The tax revenue from Prop 30 will generate an estimated $6.6 billion each year. However, when the state legislature and Governor Brown approved the state budget last year, they were counting on Prop 30 to pass too.
If it doesn't, a series of automatic trigger cuts will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
"It's much more about alleviating or avoiding immediate pain, than trying to lay the groundwork for a long-term solution," Schnur said."
Without Prop 30, K-12 schools would face an automatic cut of $5.4 billion.
"Let's call this budget awful, so basically, if Prop 30 passes, it keeps us at awful!" said middle school teacher Scott Miller. "But that's a whole lot better than if it doesn't pass."
Miller is a member of the California Teachers Association, a union which has donated more than $6 million in support of Prop 30. Miller is one of many teachers phone banking every night to reach undecided voters. He worries that if Prop 30 fails, many districts would likely have to reduce the school year by up to 15 more days.
"When you lose your support and your classes get bigger, and you lose funding for things like all the materials you need, it really makes the job much harder," Miller said.
Prop 30 also impacts higher education. If it passes, 11 percent of the tax revenue will go to public colleges. If it fails, the Cal State and UC systems will each face a $250 million cut.
As for public safety, Prop 30 will guarantee continued state financial support for certain programs that were handed over to counties last year, including recent changes in the prison and jail system
Opponents of Prop 30 say the state should stop wasteful spending instead of raising taxes.
Small business owner Tom Benson says he's voting against Prop 30.
"It's a foolish, foolish approach," Benson said. "You can't continue to take the money out of business and give it to government and expect the economy to grow."
"Everybody thinks, oh that's only three cents, that's only five cents, but the fact of the matter is nobody's looking at the whole picture and we're getting crushed."
Benson also argued that big ticket spending, like the high speed rail project, proves that Sacramento isn't thinking about schools or small businesses.
"If your house is on fire, you go to put out the fire first, and then you go pick the color for the ceiling paint," Benson explained. "California doesn't do that. They just keep going assuming they'll get more money."
A mid-October, Reason-Rupe polls showed that 50 percent of voters support Prop 30, while 46 percent oppose it.
Another big factor is Proposition 38, a competing tax plan also on the ballot this year. If passed, Prop 38 would raise the income tax rate on nearly all taxpayers to specifically fund schools.
The latest poll shows Prop 38 is unlikely to pass, but Prop 38 campaign ads could sway or even confuse undecided voters.
"I think most observers would agree that it is really vulnerable to an opposition campaign over the last weeks before election day," Schnur said."
If both ballot measures pass, the one with the most votes will be put into effect. If neither is able to receive 50 percent approval, then the trigger cuts will take effect on Jan. 1.