Gov. Jerry Brown described voters' approval of his plan to temporarily raise taxes on well-off Californians to fund the state's education system and other services as a decision to raise taxes for the "California Dream."
The plan, which would increase income taxes for residents making more than $250,000 per year and increase the sales tax, was approved after initial returns suggested the measure was headed for a tight race. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, "Yes" votes led "No" votes with 54 percent of the vote.
"We have a vote of the people, I think the only place in America where a state actually said, 'Let's raise our taxes for our kids, for our schools, for our California Dream," Brown said Tuesday night.
A few hours later at a Wednesday news conference, Brown talked about what 54 percent of voters communicated with approval of the measure.
"This is something around 54 percent, so like everywhere else in the world there's division," said Brown. "You don't want to over-read what the voters say. I see this as a vote of confidence with, certainly, some reservations."
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told NBC4 the district would have faced a catastrophic funding hole without Prop 30.
"It would have taken a month of the school year, immediately," said Deasy. "We were going to watch the dismantling of public education."
Prop 30's tax increases on earnings over $250,000 would be in effect for seven years. A sales tax increase of a quarter-cent cent will be in effect for four years.
Its rival measure, Prop 38, garnered less support. That measure, under which taxes would be raised on most Californians to aid the state's struggling education system, picked up just 28 percent of the vote. The measure, promoted by billionaire Molly Munger, would increase income tax for most Californians for 12 years, depending on how much income those taxpayers earn.
Brown staked his political reputation on Prop 30, saying the measure was needed to save the state's education system and other services. If it did not pass, trigger cuts were set to go into effect that would take billions from public schools, community colleges and state universities.
Critics have argued that Prop 30 will not necessarily increase classroom spending. The money will go to the state's general fund and despite written assurances about accountability and support for schools, there is no guarantee that education will benefit.
“Prop 30 will not increase education spending," said NO on 30 spokesman Aaron McClear. "Instead, it just goes to the politicians to spend on whatever they want.”
Brown said Wednesday that the plan should not be considered a "cure."
"The state has been reaching into the pocket of schools districts because its couldn't pay our bills," he said. "Instead of the state borrowing hat-in-hand from our school districts, we're going to have enough money to fund the schools as our constitution requires. We're not going to see the big cutbacks."
Other critics say a tax hike would only work with voters if it is paired with reforms, such as allowing merit pay for teachers and eliminating the teacher seniority system.
“If [voters] feel they are getting something for the additional taxes, they will pay," said David Fleming of the Los Angeles County Business Federation. "They’ll probably say yes but right now they don’t because they feel it's all a one-way street."
The Mervin Field Poll, out last week, showed that a close vote was likely. The poll showed support dropping below 50 percent, but it also showed 14 percent undecided.