SACRAMENTO (AP) — In a final weekend of campaigning, Gov. Jerry Brown is asking everyone from cafeteria workers to venture capitalists for help in pushing his struggling $6 billion tax increase across the finish line.
The Democratic governor made two appearances in Los Angeles on Saturday in which he praised the thousands of volunteers who are part of his final statewide effort to sway undecided voters and boost turnout for Tuesday's election.
Recent public opinion polls show a narrow path to victory for Proposition 30, which would help close California's budget deficit by raising the state sales tax a quarter cent for four years and hiking income taxes for seven years on those making more than $250,000 annually.
The measure will have a deep impact on Brown's legacy and failure could mean additional cuts for California's public universities and grade schools.
In pep talks to precinct walkers with Service Employees International Union and phone bankers working with the community group Inner City Struggle, Brown emphasized the importance of grassroots involvement.
"This is a coming together of individual people to counteract the millions and millions of dollars of billionaires and others who evidentially don't care as much as you do about the schools in California," he told the SEIU volunteers. "With your support, we're getting the word out."
Courtni Pugh, Executive Director of SEIU local 99, said Brown's visit was an inspiration to her members, many of whom drive buses, clean floors and serve lunches in Los Angeles public schools.
"We had members who took six buses here today to knock on doors for hours, and to see the governor say he's doing this for them and for the kids was great fuel for the next few days," she said in a telephone interview.
In Sacramento Saturday, teacher and labor unions launched a final voter participation push in support of Proposition 30. In the Central Valley, the progressive group California Calls was kicking off a similar four-day effort.
As the Proposition 30 campaigning has intensified, the pool of available votes has been shrinking. An estimated 3.5 million voters have already cast their ballots by mail.
Supporters see reasons for optimism in the changing composition of the electorate.
California reached a record number of registered voters this fall, with the majority signing up through the state's new online system. Voters who registered online tended to be younger and lean Democratic.
On Friday, Brown addressed the criticism that a new tax on high-income earners could spur job creators to flee the state. Speaking at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's annual public policy lunch, he cited a study that found millionaires are more likely to leave California because of marital problems.
"What it says is the biggest factor in millionaires moving out of California is divorce," Brown said, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
While support for tax initiatives tends to drop as Election Day approaches, Brown has encountered more roadblocks than he originally anticipated, including a rival tax measure by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger and a robust opposition campaign funded in part by her brother, Charles Jr., and an anonymous $11 million donation from an Arizona group.
Opponents say the additional tax revenue would be subject to the whims of Sacramento politicians, and would not necessarily improve education.
A Field Poll released Thursday found support for the initiative had slipped to 48 percent in favor, with 14 percent still undecided.
On Saturday, Brown acknowledged the role these wavering voters will likely play in swinging what appears to be an exceedingly close race.
"The surveys look good, but we're not there yet," he said. "There are a few people who are undecided and we've got to get the word out."
Brown held off on launching his ground game until late October, citing gubernatorial duties. But for the past two weeks, he has joined his supporters in scourging for every available vote with a steady stream of rallies and media events.
He has announced visits to four area churches on Sunday, and on Monday, he is expected to hopscotch through five cities, including San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento.
High school student Kristian Cardenas, 17, said Brown's appearance at Inner City Struggle showed that the 74 year-old governor cares about the plight of students. Cardenas said class sizes have nearly doubled at his downtown Los Angeles school this year because of teacher layoffs.
"Prop 30 is important to me because I want more money to go to our schools," he said in a telephone interview. "I have cousins and I don't want their classes to be this packed."