The biggest test is fast approaching for two ballot measures designed to help state schools by raising taxes, but it will be up to voters this November to decide which proposition will pass or fail.
Propositions 30 and 38 have been the subject of much debate statewide.
Proposition 30, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would raise the sales tax by one-quarter of one cent for four years while increasing personal income taxes for Californians who earn over $250,000 for seven years.
Those who support it, like the California Teachers’ Association and the Napa Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, argue its failure would have a devastating impact on schools.
"The schools in Napa are pretty popular and I think people will go for it if they know what it is," said Napa High School teacher Cindy Watter during a pro-30 demonstration by teachers and students outside the education center at Jefferson Street and Lincoln Avenue Oct. 12. (See accompanying video.)
A loss for Prop. 30 would take about a $7 million bite out of the Napa Valley Unified School District budget, according to superintendent Patrick Sweeney, who also joined the streetcorner demonstration.
"It's going to affect us deeply," Sweeney said, citing larger class sizes and fewer school days among the likely results of a Prop. 30 loss.
Napa Valley College trustee Bruce Ketron said a Prop. 30 failure would mean a $1.7 million hit to the community college, where students are already being taxed $46 a unit.
"What we're going to have to do is reduce programs on an emergency basis," Ketron said. "We can't just starve the system and not provide these services if we want people to have education for the future."
Appraiser and real estate broker Leon Brauning, past president of the Napa County Taxpayers Association, said his organization has voted to oppose Prop. 30.
During a ballot measure forum at First United Methodist Church in Napa Oct 7, Brauning called the measure the "extortion by child cruelty proposition," saying the state's June budget had increased school funding by $6 billion with "trigger cuts" of $5.4 billion if Prop. 30 fails.
"They give and then they take," Brauning said. "Did you ever hear the term 'Indian giver'?"
The taxpayers association also opposes Proposition 38, according to a statement on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Napa-County-Taxpayers-Association/244687392566
Proposition 38 has been primarily financed by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger. The proposal, supported by California PTA which worked with Munger on the measure, aims to increase personal income taxes using a sliding scale, with a single filer earning as little as $17,346 per year, for example, seeing higher taxes, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Scott Folsom, vice president of the California PTA’s 10th District which covers Los Angeles County, said Prop 38 makes the most sense.
“It’s really the only initiative on the ballot that brings new funding to schools,” Folsom said. “The money Prop 38 raises is not disbursed by Sacramento. It’s decided at the local school site. The money goes directly to schools.”
However, the PTA’s official stance is it will not necessarily encourage Prop 38 supporters to vote against Prop 30, he said.
“The state PTA has looked at and decided to take no position on it,” Folsom said. “We’re asking our members to carefully look at Proposition 30 and make up your own mind.”
The PTA nonetheless sees some problems with Proposition 30.
“It doesn’t bring new money to the schools, and if it doesn’t pass, it reduces money,” Folsom said. “It doesn’t solve the problem schools are in now. If it fails, it cuts funding. It’s the reverse of bringing money to the schools.”
Prop 30 backers are playing hardball. Supporters of Gov. Brown have started a committee called Stop the Middle Class Tax Hike - No on Prop. 38 to oppose the plan. For her part, Munger has funded a TV advertising campaign against Proposition 30, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
A “yes” vote on Prop 30 means “the new tax revenues would be available to fund programs in the state budget,” according to California's official Voter Information Guide. A "no" vote means state budget cuts, which would primarily impact education programs, would take effect in 2012 to 2013.
According to the guide, a "yes" vote on Prop 38 means personal income tax rates would guarantee new funding to restore budget cuts and improve educational results. A "no" vote would mean no additional revenue from the measure would be available for schools, child care, preschool, and state debt payments.
If both propositions pass, the measure with the most "yes" votes would go into effect, according to the California Legislative Analyst's office.
To see more information on the major propositions up for vote in November, go to the MapLight voter guide.
What do you say: Prop. 30? Prop. 38? Or neither? Tell us in the comments.