Prop 30

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Gov’s Prop. 30 Tax Hike: More For Schools, Criminal Justice…or More Money Misspent?

By Erika Kelly

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at L.A. City Hall on the state budget earlier this year.  (Kevork Djansezian: Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at L.A. City Hall on the state budget earlier this year. (Kevork Djansezian: Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown has been blazing the campaign trail for Proposition 30 for several weeks now. It’s his big play to bring in new revenue, and he’s lined up a lot of support to pay for campaign ads that begin Wednesday. People and organizations have ponied up more than $41 million to back Prop. 30. Brown warns that without the added revenue, California schools would face something like financial Armageddon. That’s a message he served up at an August visit to San Francisco’s James Lick Middle School.

“If people say ‘no, we don’t want to tax the most rewarded and blessed among us, we want to close schools,'” he told the crowd, “okay, I’ll manage as best as we can. But I will tell you, and I’m telling you the truth, everything I’ve seen in my lifetime tells me that schools need more money.”

The “blessed people” Brown refers to are California’s highest earners. Under Prop. 30, they would see their income taxes go up for seven years. But it’s not just the wealthy who would be asked to chip in. Everyone who makes a purchase in California would have to pay an additional quarter-cent sales tax for four years. This year’s state’s budget assumes Prop. 30 will pass and billions of dollars of new revenue will flow into state coffers. But H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the State Department of Finance, says if voters reject the measure, significant cuts are coming — and fast. Continue reading

‘Honeymoon’ with Obama Turns to Reality of Married Life for Black Supporters

By Caitlin Esch

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson addresses Obama faithful at Everett and Jones restaurant in Oakland. (Photo: Caitlin Esch)

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson addresses Obama faithful at Everett and Jones restaurant in Oakland. (Photo: Caitlin Esch)

NAACP volunteer Gayle Akins pitches a table and spreads out voter registration forms at an anti-violence rally outside Oakland City Hall. She’s capitalizing on the support that President Barack Obama inspires locally: many new voters are registering simply to cast a vote for him.

Sometimes they act like, ‘I don’t know if my vote counts,’ but they know a lot about what’s going on,” Akins says. “If we can convince them — register to vote — and actually get out to vote … it’s a really good thing.”

Still, many African-American voters are frustrated. Four years ago, Oakland resident William Edwards says he was thrilled when Obama won. But Edwards has fallen on hard times; his home is in foreclosure, and he doesn’t think Obama is paying attention to the concerns of his community — things like too few jobs and too many African American men in prison.

“It’s almost like dating. You date someone and they show their great side, and you get married and it’s like ‘oh, they don’t pick up their socks.'”

“He’s got probably 95 percent of the black vote, but it’s nice to vote and support him,” Edwards says. “But, what are we gonna get for it? Everybody else has an agenda of what they wanna get. So what’s in it for us?”

Oakland Civil rights attorney Eva Paterson has had her own disappointments over the past four years, but she says the black community’s romance with the president has given way to something else. Continue reading

Anti-Tax Advocates Angry Over CSU Tuition Threat

By Ben Adler

Anti-tax advocates are calling foul over Cal State University’s stance on Governor Brown’s tax increase measure, Proposition 30.

The trustees voted yesterday to tie future tuition costs to Prop 30’s fate.

If Governor Jerry Brown’s tax measure passes, the CSU system will roll back a previously approved 9 percent increase. But If Prop 30 fails, the university will leave it in place – and tack on an additional five percent.

Meanwhile, a draft letter from CSU reportedly tells applicants that Prop 30 will affect how many students the university can enroll. That has Jon Coupal  with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association threatening a lawsuit.

“To specifically reference Prop 30 and actually try to predict what happens if Prop 30 passes or does not pass is going beyond an informational activity and gets into the realm of political advocacy,” he says.

A CSU spokesman says the letter is legal.

Support For Guv’s Tax Measure Holds Steady, But Undecideds Could Spell Trouble

(Tina Barseghian/KQED)

(Tina Barseghian/KQED)

Gov. Jerry Brown has been emphatic that if Proposition 30 fails in November, billions of dollars in cuts to public education are coming. He’s made that linkage so hard, in fact, that KXTV political editor and longtime Sacto observer John Myers once likened his Yes on 30 efforts to the famous National Lampoon cover in which the magazine threatened to shoot a dog if you didn’t buy the issue.

So is the public buying it?

On that front, a poll released Thursday shows mixed results.

Support for the measure is roughly the same since the last poll in July — 51 percent of voters in favor, 36 percent opposed. Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo told KQED’s Scott Shafer this morning that “They’re treading water, but at a rate that is not all that comfortable. But still there’s not a lot of evidence that their ‘yes’ side vote is deteriorating over time.”

However, an increasing number of undecided voters could turn out to be bad news for the measure. In July, 8 percent of voters were undecided; today’s poll shows 13 percent unsure.

Support for the measure is roughly the same since the last poll in July …“They’re treading water.”

“It’s our experience that if you don’t convince undecided voters, especially in the late going, to whatever it is you’re trying to get them to do, they tend to vote no more often than yes,”  said DiCamillo.

The Field Poll also shows another tax initiative, Prop. 38 — which would also finance education — at 41 percent of voters in favor, 44 percent opposed and 15 percent undecided. That’s up 8 percent since July. Continue reading

Eroding Trust in Government Among Young Voters

Editor’s note: This story is part of an intermittent series. The Public Policy Institute of California is conducting small focus groups across the state to discuss the role of government, and KQED was invited to listen in. First names only were used to encourage candid conversation.

By Ana Tintocalis

(R. Michael Stuckey: Comstock Images)

20-somethings say they support November propositions that will fund education, but still lack confidence in government. (R. Michael Stuckey: Comstock Images)

A group of Millennials — young people aged 18 to 29 — are gathered around a conference table in a nondescript office building in Silicon Valley.

In just a few minutes, they will be answering some pointed political questions as part of a researched-based focus group organized by the Public Policy Institute of California — a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. The PPIC conducts public opinion polling, but they’re also holding smaller conversations to gauge more detailed opinions from Californians this election year.

On this night participants come from all walks of life — from a teenage grocery store clerk to an engineer at Cisco. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, and others don’t belong to any party.

But as a group, they are not excited about how the U.S. is doing. “Uneasy,” one person said. “Worried and scared,” was the take of somebody else.

‘Our taxes are going to jails for the inmates to live somewhat well versus [going to] education. When you turn around and graduate, you don’t have a job to go to.’

These 20-somethings are anxious about their prospects for the future and are especially worried about finding a good job in a still-struggling economy.

It’s a far cry from four years ago, when the promise of hope and change bolstered the expectations of young people across the country.

“Government is unproductive. They’re large, they’re bulky, and it’s top heavy. And it shouldn’t be that way,” said Yukata, a young Republican who received his master’s degree at U.C. Davis. “When you look at government, you think of greed. That’s not how our founders wanted the government to be. They wanted our government to be small.”

Some of the others at the table nod in agreement. While they don’t see eye-to-eye on many social issues, one thing is clear: They feel lawmakers have turned their backs on providing an affordable, quality higher education in the Golden State.

Ryan, a San Jose State kinesiology major, says the classes he needs have been slashed, yet his tuition continues to increase.

“I could have graduated in four years, but every semester it was a struggle,” Ryan said. “I’d get my registration date, and there’d be [no classes available]. It’s the most frustrating thing. … You have good grades; you’ve been at the school for four years … and tuition just keeps getting more and more expensive. It just doesn’t make sense.” Continue reading

Gov. Brown Makes a Case for Prop. 30

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses questions from the San Jose Mercury News editorial board. (Image: UStream)

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses questions from the San Jose Mercury News editorial board. (Image: UStream)

Gov. Jerry Brown sat down with the San Jose Mercury News editorial board today to discuss his ballot proposition to raise taxes for education. If the measure fails, automatic trigger cuts will mean billions cut from K-12, community colleges and public universities in California.

Brown started off with some political history — a little bit of ‘how did we get into this mess — for the assembled Mercury News reporters and editors.

“If you go back to Pete Wilson,” Brown began, “we had a big recession, he had to cut massively and raise taxes massively. And then Davis rode up the high tech bubble and rode it down. That created its own problems and then Arnold came in and he rode the mortgage bubble up and also rode it down. And so that we are caught in waves of prosperity and misfortune. And in that process, the problem has been compounded because the Democrats and Republicans as they try to negotiate a balance, the Democrats want to get some more benefits and the Republicans counter with tax breaks. That then compounds the problem, because you have more spending and less revenue.” Continue reading

Analysis: Gov. Brown’s ‘Gun to the Head’ Campaign For Higher Taxes

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown hopscotched around the state, making sure at each stop to make a pitch for Proposition 30 and threatening multibillion dollar cuts to education if voters don’t approve the initiative’s temporary taxes this November. I interviewed longtime state-government observer John Myers, political editor at KXTV in Sacramento, about Brown’s campaign.

Edited transcript:

RACHAEL MYROW: You recently blogged that the governor’s campaign reminds you of the infamous January 1973 cover of National Lampoon: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

JOHN MYERS: Yeah, and I also wrote that it may be a little over the top to make the comparison. But the point is that when you look at the way the governor has rolled out this campaign in the early stages — and he’s now had an event in Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco — it’s very much a campaign geared towards what happens if Proposition 30 fails. He hasn’t talked a lot about all the great things that will happen if it passes. And that’s typically what you have in a ballot measure campaign. People say “Vote for us, because great things will happen.” This has been a campaign of saying, “If you don’t vote for us, doomsday comes.” And doomsday in this case, is the $5 billion to $6 billion in automatic spending cuts to schools that were written into the state budget if Prop 30 fails. That’s a very different kind of political campaign.

MYROW: This week USC released a poll that offers a couple of interesting insights. First, and this is probably the part Gov. Brown likes, a majority of those polled would vote for Proposition 30.

MYERS: They would. If you look at this poll, and if you look at all of the polls that we’ve seen in the last few weeks, the governor’s measure, which, again, would temporarily raise income taxes on the wealthiest and sales taxes on everyone, it has always polled in the low 50s, which of course is a majority of those being polled. But historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day, and so this is actually a low number.

MYROW: I was quite taken by another interesting tidbit from this poll: people ranked school funding fifth as a spending priority. This is after the economy, after jobs, after the state budget deficit and wasteful government spending.

Historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day.

MYERS: Yeah, it’s interesting, one of the folks from USC who were talking to reporters about this poll made the comment that they really feel as though voters are in a triage mode. The economy has been tough, unemployment has remained high, and voters’ historic priorities about spending and government may be shifting somewhat, or at least temporarily shifting. And clearly there’s an issue of wasteful government spending — they asked these folks in this poll about things like high-speed rail, the ongoing controversy about the hidden money in the state parks bank accounts, and the governor has tried to insist that these things have nothing to do with Proposition 30. But this poll does raise some questions about whether voters feel as though government is mismanaging the money it has, and maybe they don’t want to give any more money to government.

MYROW: This week the governor argued a state as big as California should be able to pursue more than one funding priority at the same time. “We have to be able to jump rope, chew gum and do five other things. Otherwise, we’re not going to make it,” Brown said.

Audio: Jerry Brown defends Prop 30 in a minute-and-a-half flat

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Now it appears that he sees himself in a fight to the political death with Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, who has spent millions pushing Proposition 38, which would raise taxes to fund K-12 and makes a point of saying, “This money doesn’t go to Sacramento. It goes to your local schools.” But I wonder, is this really an either-or situation, the way the governor seems to be presenting it. Why not presume voters could approve both propositions?

MYERS: People who I’ve talked to, election law experts, say, “Yes, the voters can approve both of these measures.” But, whichever one would get the most “yes” votes would probably be the only one that would go into effect. And, if in fact, Ms. Munger — the wealthy civil rights attorney — her measure went into effect, with tax revenues only for schools, then those schools could still suffer a $5 billion to $6 billion automatic trigger cut, because that’s what was drawn out in the budget if Prop. 30 fails. So, there’s a legal problem there.

But but there’s a political argument, too, that’s difficult. Which [is] if you’re the governor, are you telling people to vote for both? They don’t like taxes, but hey, here’s double taxes, in a way. And we should point out the polling is that Prop. 38, this Munger K-12 tax measure, does not have majority support in any poll I’ve seen. It is below the 50 percent threshold, and at this point it could just be a political argument. The voters really may not say ‘yes’ to that.

Not So Simple Math: Support for Silicon Valley K-8 Teachers in an Era of Budget Cuts

The Ten Commandments of Arithmetic: no place here for fuzzy math like you see in politics. (Credit: KQED/Rachael Myrow)

This November, California voters will be asked to weigh in on two ballot measures that affect education funding. Proposition 38 promises to raise money for K-12 schools with a broad-based income tax hike. Proposition 30, backed by Gov. Brown, would also raise taxes, but to a slightly different end: bolstering the state budget and avoiding massive education cuts.

Of course, lots and lots of funding has already been slashed. The distance between where we are and where we want to be in education is profoundly troubling to many voters in California – not just parents hoping to get their kids into a top university.

Continue reading

Central Valley Voters Speak Their Minds at Focus Groups

Editor’s note: This story is part of an intermittent series. The Public Policy Institute of California is conducting small focus groups across the state to discuss the role of government, and KQED was invited to listen in. First names only were used to encourage candid conversation.

By Alice Daniel

I’m sitting behind a two-way mirror in an air conditioned office in Fresno as ten voters enter a meeting room and sit around an oblong table.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, introduces himself. He’ll lead this focus group and one directly following it. Initially, people look uncertain — as if they’re not sure what to expect. Yet once these people — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — begin talking, the pain and anger they are feeling over the economic and political landscape soon spills out.

Luz, a single mother of a teenager and a one-year-old, said she just got laid off after 11 years as a supervisor for a produce refrigeration company. She’s scared she won’t have the money to raise her children.

“Probably go homeless,” she says. “Too sad. And I can’t relocate right now because of my family. And it just makes me mad also.”

Daniel, a Democrat, is voting for Mitt Romney because he thinks the country needs a change. He works at Lowes but is about to lose his house to foreclosure and he’s wondering whether he’ll have to move out of state. Continue reading