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Proposition 30: The new math, Jerry Brown style

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POSTED August 17, 2012 12:07 a.m.

Pity the governor.  The money is not there. The man is dealing with a legislature that’s controlled by his own party but is suffering from full-scale denial. Special interest groups are doing full-court presses to protest cuts. And the general population wants more services but doesn’t want to pay for them.

Add to that the state’s refusal to do cutbacks when the going started to get rough plus the inability to innovate and streamline how state government operates and you have 50 shades of chaos.

No wonder the best solution he could muscle is Proposition 30. In a nutshell, the tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot raises sales tax a half cent for four years and ups the tax on those making $250,000 or more a year.

Ever the salesman-preacher, Jerry Brown has pitched his measure as a way to provide new funds for schools. There’s only one problem. It’s not true. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s office issued a report that states the money goes to the general fund and not to schools, because it simply covers a part of what schools are already legally owed under Proposition 98. Even educator groups concede there is no real new money for education.

That said you’ve got to go with something.

There is Proposition 38 - a rival taxing measure placed on the ballot through the initiative process that taxes almost all income levels on a sliding scale starting just above $7,000 a year in income. It guarantees more money for schools but faces the same chances as an ice cube in Death Valley at high noon on the Fourth of July.  In a state that has perfected the craft of devising sin taxes on unpopular groups, the chances of  an income tax increase spread across all levels on wealth is a concept that for all practical purposes is dead on arrival once voting starts.

That basically leaves California’s financial stability riding on Proposition 30.

If it passes, schools will get cut $500 million, with Manteca Unified losing $1.5 million. If it doesn’t pass, schools take a $2.9 billion hit with Manteca Unified getting cut $10.5 million.

Brown has found critics from both his left and right taking shots at his tax measure by actually playing straight and narrow with the facts, charging correctly that it provides no new funding to schools.

What it does is avoid massive funding losses to schools that will make the past five years look like a walk in the park.

Brown, for his part, is no longer trying to sell Proposition 30 as a way to restore education funding. He is now drumming up support for the ballot measure by zeroing on the inconvenient truth. There will be no new money for education if it passes. Failure to pass Proposition 30, though, will immensely impact schools in a very negative way.

And if you bite the bullet and vote for Proposition 38 and really increase your taxes, and not just those on the wealthy, because it guarantees more funds from the increased revenue will go to education, don’t think that it will happen.

The governor has made not-so-veiled threats to simply reduce money going to education by what Proposition 38 would deliver.

That means the naked truth about Proposition 30 is simple. It is about helping make the state budget as whole as possible and not public schools.

The governor knows you won’t buy that even though in an indirect way it reduces the anticipated carnage for public  schools slightly.

The problem is the Mary Poppins “spoonful of sugar” campaign may make it palatable to Californians to swallow the medicine Nov. 6 but it won’t make education funding healthier. It simply hacks away a couple more inches on the proverbial arms and legs.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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