Gov. Brown's Prop 30 Tax Initiative Approved
California voters have approved Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to raise income taxes on the wealthy and raise the statewide sales tax to fund K-12 schools and help balance the state budget.
The Proposition 30 vote was close and its passage was not clear until early Wednesday.
Its passage increases the statewide sales tax by a quarter cent for four years, starting in January, while people who make more than $250,000 a year will pay higher taxes for seven years retroactive to the beginning of 2012.
If voters had rejected it, the Democratic governor had pledged to enact $6 billion in cuts to schools and colleges.
Conservative opponents spent as much as $53 million to defeat the measure, while unions and Democratic activists poured nearly $70 million into the "yes" campaign. The vote was vindication for Brown and his biggest political test since taking office in January, 2011.
Brown had sought to persuade voters across California to support his tax measure, Proposition 30, telling them a quarter-cent increase in the state sales tax and higher income taxes on the wealthy are a small price to pay for a more stable state budget and reliable funding for higher education.
The measure calls for higher tax rates on incomes of more than $250,000 for seven years and a quarter-cent increase in the statewide sales tax for four years.
Brown said the measure would help California balance its budget after years of cuts to schools, higher education, health care and social-service programs.
Opponents of Proposition 30 point out that the revenue to be raised will go to the state general fund. Lawmakers and Brown then could decide to spend it on a variety of state programs in addition to education.
If Proposition 30 fails, this year’s state budget is set up to cut $5.3 billion from the state’s public schools and community colleges, half a billion from its universities and about $100 million total from other state departments and local public safety grants.
Propositions 30’s failure would have cost San Diego County school districts instructional days this year and could mean another year of deep cuts next year.
At San Diego Unified the district struck a deal with employee unions to cut 14 school days if the measure fails – that’s on top of fie days that have been taken out of the school calendar for the last several years.
Sweetwater Union High School District and Vista Unified have each agreed to cut 11 school days if the proposition fails, while Grossmont High School District students would lose 6 days in the classroom.
Many districts were able to avoid cutting school days in their plans to balance their budgets if the measure fails. But even those districts, like Poway Unified and Chula Vista Elementary, have said they would have to consider furlough days and increases to class sizes for Kindergarten through third grade classes for 2013-14 if the trigger cuts go into effect.
San Diego's school board president John Lee Evans said he thinks voters have had enough of education cuts.
“I think there’s really going to be an outcry on the public’s part for funding for public education," he said. "We rank number 47 in the nation in terms of per-pupil funding. And this is just not acceptable. I think the voters are really going to say, ‘let’s stand up and vote for anything that’s going to improve our schools.’ ”
But Chris Cate with the San Diego Taxpayers Associations said by rejecting the measure, voters would send another equally important message that the budget should be balanced through reforms before tax increases.
“We already have the second highest income tax rate in the country, we have the highest sales tax rate in the country,” he said. “If education is their true priority, they should focus on that rather than wasting time, energy and money on things like high-speed rail or other pet projects they want to get done.”
Educators, students, parents and taxpayers across San Diego County and the state are holding their breath, waiting to hear which message voters chose.