Prop. 30 limping at the finish
Gov. Jerry Brown has launched his version of a two-minute drill for his Proposition 30 initiative, with Election Day just more than two weeks away. Prop. 30 would raise up to $8.5 billion a year, through higher sales taxes and new top income tax brackets on high-income Californians. The money supposedly would prevent further budget cuts, mainly to education.
There's good and bad news for the governor's effort. The good news was that the philanthropic attorney Molly Munger has pulled the television ads that unfavorably contrasted Prop. 30 with her own Proposition 38 tax increase of $10 billion, earmarked for schools. The ads criticized Prop. 30 for not including Prop. 38's "guarantee" that the additional money would go directly to local schools.
"That's why Sacramento's behind it," a child's voice says in the ad, an apparent reference to Brown and other Democratic establishment backers of Prop. 30.
The Munger-funded attacks "clearly weren't good for us," Ace Smith, Prop. 30's campaign manager, said. "But there was a public outcry, and we're glad they're pulling them."
We didn't notice any public outcry.
But that's about the only good news for Brown. The latest polling from the California Business Roundtable showed Prop. 30 dipping below 50 percent support, which is bad for an initiative this near an election. Absentee voters already are putting their ballots in the mail; their decisions can't be altered. It may prove difficult for the governor to reclaim a majority by Nov. 6.
The campaign money situation also isn't improving. Public employee unions, whom Brown has called his "troops," have given most of the $52 million raised as of Oct. 14 for the Yes on 30 campaign. He might not get much more.
The unions have realized that continuation of their dominance over California politics depends on their defeating Prop. 32, the Paycheck Protection Act. It would prevent unions from automatically deducting money from members' paychecks to be used for political campaigns. For the unions, losing Prop. 30 would be a misfortune; the passage of Prop. 32 would be a catastrophe.
The unions have contributed almost all of the $57 million raised by the anti-32 campaign. That's money the governor might wish he could have had to spend on passing Prop. 30.
Meanwhile, anti-Prop. 30 money keeps adding up. Charles Munger, Molly's brother, has contributed $22 million to the anti-Prop. 30 campaign. And, according to the Sacramento Bee, on Monday a "mystery group" called Americans for Responsible Leadership and based in Phoenix dumped $11 million into the anti-Prop. 30 campaign.
Brown is an inveterate campaigner and, at age 74, has been boosting Prop. 30 with the energy of a much younger man. He's been especially encouraging students in the two state university systems to back the initiative, supposedly to prevent threatened increases in their tuition.
He didn't mention that Prop. 30 would do nothing to prevent much of the additional tax money from going to state employee pensions or other purposes. Nor did he say that both the University of California and Cal State University systems are larded with waste that needs to be cut. And he surely didn't point out that the higher taxes would likely kill some jobs that otherwise would go to students upon graduation.
Let's hope the students — and other voters — are more astute than the governor may surmise.