Fallout from intense infighting over two races on the Nov. 6 ballot could deliver a near fatal blow to California government as we now know it.
The battle being waged over dueling tax propositions - 30 and 38 - isn’t between pro tax and anti tax folks. It is between pro tax forces with a strong liberal bent.
In one corner you have Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Teachers Association. in the other you have liberal-leaning civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California Parent Teachers Association.
Brown’s measure is a $6 billion tax increase through a quarter-cent sales tax hike and increasing income taxes for those earning $250,000-plus a year. Munger’s measure is a $10 billion tax hike based on increasing income taxes on earners from $7,800 a year and up.
There is a big difference between the two measures besides $4 billion.
Brown’s plan doesn’t restrict the money exclusively to education even though that is what ads he has running now claim. Munger’s measure restricts every penny raised to be spent on schools exclusively.
That’s where the rub comes in.
Brown’s ads are basically angering Munger’s camp that rightfully criticize the misleading tagline that “Sacramento politicians can’t touch the money.” The money from Prop. 30 committed to schools are based on a promise by the governor and not actual binding language. In other words, it is all on the table for other ruses.
Munger’s measure has the legal wording that restricts funds raised for education and education only.
So why is the CTA backing the governor’s measure? The answer is short-term perseverance. If Prop. 30 doesn’t pass automatic budget cuts go into effect at the start of January to the tune of $6 billion to public education. That is money that will come out of the current year’s school budgets. That’s because the state budget was “balanced” this year assuming Prop. 30 would pass. Nothing new about that in terms of the state budgeting for expenses they don’t have the money to cover. But this time around they’ve assured they will have plenty of victims - California students - to take the blow.
So why is the PTA backing Munsger’s initiative? The answer is long-term stability. It is a game changing by starting to wean off tax funding for education from a revenue generating system that seems to live and dies off the upward and downward ebb of good times by relying too much on capitals gains taxes. It’s like the state assuming in the current budget that they’d be $1 billion or so to the good in taxes when Facebook employees sell their stock. Too bad the stock has essentially tanked since it went public making the $1 billion mark look more like wishful thinking than sound budget planning.
But there’s a caveat to Mungser’s measure: The California Legislature. While the state can’t touch any money raised from Prop. 38 taxes, they most certainly can take away other money from schools. They’ve done it before after saying they wouldn’t. Think lottery receipts and how they weren’t supposed to supplant state funding that existed at the time the ballot making gambling at your neighborhood convenience store legal.
As long as we have an irresponsible legislature that specializes in can kicking, there will be no solution to any of our ills that has a lasting effect.
If one passes and the other does not pass things aren’t exactly going to tank. But if both should fail then the stage has been set for education funding cuts to go into muscle and - in some districts - precariously close to the bone.
The last thing California needs now is for the backers of one initiative - Prop. 30 - to push half truths about the dueling measure that could ultimately turn voters off when it comes to supporting either option.
And should that happen there will be new ABCs for schools as in “All But Crushed”.
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 email@example.com or 209-249-3519.