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The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Why Proposition 30 May Fail

We break down four factors that help explain why Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative my fail in November.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gov. Jerry Brown has been out every day this week promoting Prop. 30.

    If Gov. Brown's measure to temporarily raise taxes on the wealthy fails on Nov. 6, blame the boy who cried wolf.

    The most recent Public Policy Institute of California survey on Proposition 30 finds support from 48 percent of the voters, with 44 percent opposed; 8 percent remain uncommitted.

    That's too slim a margin to count on - and it's getting slimmer by the day.

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    Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike plan, which would go toward public education, is losing popularity. Support for the proposition has dropped below 50 percent, and that has the governor and education groups vying for votes a little more than one week out from the election. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 26, 2012.

    The proposition is intended to rescue California's woefully underfunded public education from complete demise.

    If passed, it would raise between $6 billion and $7 billion annually for the next seven years through hikes in personal income taxes for those earning more than $250,000 over the full seven year period and a quarter cent increase in the state sales tax for four years.

    Yet, absent a last minute turn-around, defeat is much more likely than victory.

    Four factors seem to account for the voters' doubts.

    First, California's economy, although in recovery, is still hurting with unemployment above 10 percent. For those in the middle class and below, the thought of even adding to the sales tax may be too much to bear.

    Second, anti-tax opponents have spent a bundle to defeat the proposal, stoking voter doubts in the process.

    Third, Molly Munger's competing proposal, Proposition 38, has split the pro-public education community and further confused the voters.

    Fourth, and perhaps most important, the voters don't trust the claims that defeat of Proposition 30 will lead to schools closing three weeks early and further truncation of higher education institutions.

    How many times have we seen out-of-whack budgets become miraculously "balanced" at the last minute?

    There's no reason for people to think that this time will be any different. But it will be different. Governor Brown has said that the cuts will be put in place immediately.

    We all know the childhood story of the little boy who falsely cried wolf again and again to the dismay of angry villagers who rushed to his rescue every time.

    Of course, when a wolf really did appear, no one responded to the boy's screams.

    Perhaps the defeat of Proposition 30 will convince the people that this time the wolf is here.

    California is already ranked 47th in per capita public education spending, community college capacity has dropped by 20 percent, and the two state university systems are charging more and accommodating fewer students.

    If the villagers don't show up, the price we ultimately pay will be costly to us all.

    Larry Gerston teaches political science at San Jose State University and is the political analyst for NBC Bay Area.

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