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Brown says schools' future at stake

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POSTED October 23, 2012 8:54 p.m.


 

SACRAMENTO (AP) — As he makes a last-minute push for his November tax initiative, Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he wants to make sure voters "know the stakes" for California's K-12 schools and colleges before they cast their ballots.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Brown said he wants to ensure Californians are aware of the $6 billion in budget cuts he says will be triggered automatically if Proposition 30 fails.

"I'm going everywhere I can in California to make sure that everyone knows the stakes, and then when they cast their vote they do it in a knowing way," Brown said in between stops in Inglewood and San Diego. "I don't want anybody to wake up the day after the election and be surprised."

With just two weeks remaining before Election Day, the Democratic governor is pitching his initiative with appearances around the state. He says schools will be decimated if voters reject the temporary quarter-cent increase in the statewide sales tax and higher income taxes on those who make more than $250,000 a year.

Brown called the decision "profoundly serious. It's either going to strengthen or weaken our social fabric."

Proposition 30 faces a well-funded opposition campaign that claims the $6 billion the higher taxes would generate each year would not help schools.

In a radio ad that also began airing Tuesday, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal calls it "just another tax increase that will kill the state economy, drive people and businesses out of California and make families poorer."

Time is of the essence for Brown to sell his argument about the choice Californians face. More than 1 million of California's 17 million registered voters already have cast vote-by-mail ballots, according to the tracking firm Political Data Inc.

Brown acknowledged that his pitch to increase taxes "is a challenging campaign by any standard." Public opinion polls have shown a narrow majority of likely voters supporting Proposition 30, but the most recent surveys were in September, before the opposition ads began to air.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," Brown told the AP. "I'm going to do everything I can between now and the Election Day to get the message out that Proposition 30 helps our schools, helps our universities and is part of my effort as governor to finally get the state back on track."

In San Diego on Tuesday, Brown visited Perkins Elementary School in the heart of the city's oldest Hispanic neighborhood, Barrio Logan. Principal Fernando Hernandez said the preschool-through-eighth grade school has suffered from repeated budget cuts over the past five years.

"There's nowhere left to cut," he told reporters outside the school, which is adorned with brightly colored murals. "We need to protect our schools."

Standing at a lectern plastered with "Yes on 30" in English and Spanish, Brown held up one of the signs and said: "This is a very clear message and the message is, 'It's money into the schools or money out of the schools.' It's third-grade arithmetic."

He was surrounded by two dozen teachers, school district officials and local politicians.

In the interview, the governor said even millionaires who would pay higher tax rates for seven years on income over $250,000 will benefit.

"There are more educated workers, they have a society whose social fabric is more solid," if Proposition 30 passes, he said. "What scientists, what doctors, what artists are waiting to be inspired by a decent education?"

He defended Proposition 30 as a reasonable initiative given the state budget crisis and the cuts to public schools and higher education if voters reject it.

"I've never quite seen such a stark black-and-white issue in my life in government," said Brown, who is serving his third term as governor after first holding the office from 1975 to 1983.

Brown also criticized an Arizona-based group that has contributed $11 million to a committee that is fighting his initiative and supporting another that would curb the financial clout of unions. He called its donors "very ultra-right kind of people" who do not have California's best interests at heart.

The good-government group Common Cause has filed a complaint with the state's political watchdog agency seeking to force disclosure about the source of money behind the nonprofit group Americans for Responsible Leadership, which gave the $11 million contribution to the Small Business Action Committee political action committee.

Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, said Tuesday that in most circumstances, the committee that received the donation would be required to show the original source of the money. The commission is still investigating, said Ravel, who was appointed to her post by Brown.

Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, wrote in an op-ed on his website that the donation was legal and called the challenge "desperate and politically motivated."

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