Our View: Point of no return for Prop. 30?
The prospect seems to be growing that Gov. Jerry Brown will be frustrated in his quest to pass Proposition 30, up to $8.5 billion in higher sales taxes and income taxes for Californians earning at least $250,000 a year. A USC/Dornsife poll released last week found that 46 percent of respondents favor the measure, with 42 percent opposed and 12 percent undecided. In past elections, initiatives at 50 percent approval at this point in the campaign usually have lost because undecided voters mostly wind up voting no.
An accompanying news release from USC/Dornsife said the new number also marked "a sharp decline from support of 55 percent of voters last month and 64 percent in March." And it was the first time Prop. 30 had polled below 50 percent.
A number of factors have combined to undercut support for Proposition 30.
The first is that, in a rare instance involving a tax-increase initiative, opponents have significant money. For example, the 2004 campaign for Proposition 63, the 1 percentage-point income tax increase on millionaires to fund mental health programs, spent $4.7 million; the opposition spent $13,000.
Proposition 30 has garnered $57 million in contributions so far, mainly from public-employee unions. But the anti-Proposition 30 forces have raised $47 million, with $22 million of that from Charles Munger Jr. Another $11 million has come from Americans for Responsible Leadership, a mysterious group based in Arizona.
Some anti-Proposition 30 TV ads have gone straight for its Achilles' heel, the quarter-cent sales tax increase, which would raise about $1 billion a year. That's one levy everybody pays. And it boosts a state sales tax rate already the highest in the nation.
A second factor was that Molly Munger, Charles' sister, has funded an education-targeted tax increase, Proposition 38. For a couple weeks, Molly Munger ran ads charging that Proposition 30 money would be misspent by "Sacramento politicians" and not go to schools. She has stopped the ads, but some damage was done.
A third factor is Proposition 32, which would ban automatic paycheck deductions, mainly from union workers, for political campaigns. Proposition 32 is a direct challenge to union power, and so carries higher priority. So far, contributions to the anti-Proposition 32 campaign amount to $64 million, mainly from the public-sector unions.
Without Proposition 32 on the ballot, some of that $64 million would have gone to support Proposition 30.
The poll numbers should give some cheer to California's already overburdened taxpayers. A new ranking by the Tax Foundation put California's combined state-local tax burden at 11.2 percent of income. That tax bite ranks fourth, after New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Booming Texas was just 7.9 percent, 45th-highest.