Gov. Brown and Proposition 30 opponents speak out during final week before election

Through flashmobs, conference calls and TV and online advertisements, supporters and opponents of Proposition 30 are begging for the attention of student voters during these last few days before the Nov. 6 election.

About 70 percent of young voters and Democrats support the measure, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

“We want to spread this around to tens of thousands, getting every young person in California voting — we know from surveys that young people are in favor of Proposition 30, but voter turnout is not so great,” Gov. Jerry Brown said during a conference call with student journalists Tuesday.

If Proposition 30 passes Californians will be charged an additional quarter cent in sales tax for four years, and individuals who make more than $250,000 a year, who currently pay 9.3 percent  in personal income tax will see it increase as much as 12.3 percent.

The Legislative Analysts Office estimates $6.8 billion in additional revenue annually. Funds would be kept in the newly created Education Protection Account, which would supplement the 40 percent of the general fund budget that must be allocated for K-12 and community colleges, due to a constitutional amendment made by Proposition 98 in 1988.

The 2012-13 general fund budget puts several trigger cuts into effect if Proposition 30 does not pass, including $250 million to both the Cal State University and University of California systems, $5.4 billion from community colleges and K-12 education, and substantially smaller cuts to other government programs.

The board of trustees voted in September to increase tuition by 5 percent if Proposition 30 does not pass, or offer a rebate from the 9 percent tuition increase CSU students paid in the 2011-12 academic year if it does pass.

Those who oppose the tax initiative believe the government has been effectively privatizing, or de-funding, higher education for years and that the root of the problem is how money is spent. StopProp30, the main campaign against the measure, claims that if Proposition 30 does not pass, educators and students may put pressure on government to come to a bipartisan agreement, with or without Brown’s participation, to enact cuts other than the trigger cuts that are already written in the budget.

“From our perspective, the defeat of (Proposition) 30 will hopefully spur the legislature to do what they should have been doing for the last 15 years, which is to prioritize spending and deal with the waste issues, or luxury items, including the high-speed rail,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a legal and political watchdog organization that promotes taxpayers’ rights, during a conference call Wednesday.

Opponents also contend that adding financial burden to the wealthy affects small business owners and will lead to more people leaving the state as well as an unpredictable fluctuation in revenue that will leave schools and the budget in a panic once Proposition 30 expires.

“If we adopt the highest tax burden in America, we will continue to see Americans vote with their feet, moving out of the state. The higher burden in and of itself doesn’t guarantee the money will be there, in fact many of us have argued that a healthy tax and regulatory climate will actually generate more revenue,” said Aaron McLear, representative from StopProp30.

Brown argues that the wealthy are earning more now than they ever have, and should help jumpstart the economy.

“The top 1 percent of filers in California income tax earned 10.5 percent of all income in 1975, this last year they earned 22.5 percent. So it’s fair that those that have done so well help in this time of need for the next seven years,” Brown said.

But most small business owners pay taxes for their business through personal income taxes, Coupal said. Since Proposition 30 does not increase corporate tax, these small business owners will see their taxes increase while their wealthier counterparts will not.

Those in opposition to Proposition 30 include the National Federation of Independent Business and the Small Business Action Committee.

Supporters include the California Federation of Teachers and California Faculty Association, who held a flashmob rally at CSUN Tuesday.

Joshua Pechthalt, president of CFT, said Proposition 30 doesn’t solve all our problems, but it is a step in the right direction.

“My daughter’s school (a public junior high) hasn’t had a full school year for the last five years, and if Proposition 30 doesn’t pass she will lose another three weeks.”

Advocates interrupted the speakers at the rally to dance to “Gangnam Style,” a tactic that successfully drew crowds of unsuspecting students into the campaign speeches.

“This proposition is hundreds of millions of dollars in or out of the system, if you’re talking about K-12 it’s billions — in or out, yes or no,” Brown said.