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Proposition 30's Fate Hinges On Whether Jerry Brown Can Capture Unsure Liberals

Paresh Dave |
October 25, 2012 | 12:22 p.m. PDT

Executive Director

Gov. Jerry Brown at a rally in Inglewood on Tuesday. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was alongside Brown as they sought to get out the vote among minorities. (Xueqiao Ma/Neon Tommy)
Gov. Jerry Brown at a rally in Inglewood on Tuesday. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was alongside Brown as they sought to get out the vote among minorities. (Xueqiao Ma/Neon Tommy)
The declining chances of Proposition 30 passing at California polls on Nov. 6  has brought the prospect of shorter school years at public schools and a new set of tuition increases at colleges and universities closer than ever. With just a week-and-a-half until the final ballots are cast, Governor Jerry Brown can revive positive momentum for Proposition 30 by convincing undecided voters that money from tax increases will be spent wisely.

His work would become easier if fellow Democrat, Molly Munger, who's backing Proposition 38, a competing tax measure, drops her attack on Proposition 30. And one political campaigns expert said Brown could benefit from calling out a group from Arizona that's been paying for negative ads about Proposition 30. Nearly 6 percent of voters support Proposition 38, but not Proposition 30, according a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll released Thursday.

The poll found just 46 percent of voters plan to vote yes on Prop 30. One in 10 voters surveyed had already voted, with a slim plurality voting yes on 30. But 12 percent of voters remain unsure of how to vote. When support of a measure dips below 50 percent before Election Day, most undecided voters tend to vote no. Fortunately for Brown, the demographic groups which are undecided in greater percentages -- minorities, Central Coast residents, women and young adults -- typically support Democrats and President Barack Obama.

"The demographics of the undecided vote reflect a lot of the people who are voting yes," said Dave Kanevsky, one of the research directors for the poll. "They are hesitant to vote and need to be convinced money will go where it needs to go."

Proposition 30 would raise the sales tax by 25 cents on a $100 purchase and raise the income tax on earnings over $250,000 for seven years. Money generated from these taxes would go toward schools and community colleges, and it would block $6 billion in cuts set to trigger in January. Unlike Proposition 38, the new pool of revenues would not guarantee increased spending on education going forward. The measure also would guarantee funding for public safety services that used to be handled by the state, but must now be overseen by local governments.

Proposition 38 would increase income tax rates for 12 years for all but the lowest-income Californians. Revenues would go to K-12 schools and early childhood education. About a third of the money would help pay down state debt. Revenues generated from the higher taxes could not be used for anything else, and the funding stream would be less likely to be affected by any declines in the economy.

Prop 38 has very little chance of passing at this point. While voters are fine taxing people with incomes of more than $250,000, taxing themselves has been harder to accept.

"If Molly Munger, who sees the writing on the wall, pulls back, it will help Brown," said Thad Kousser, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.

Kousser also said Brown could benefit by attacking a nonprofit group based in Arizona that donated $11 million to the No on 30 campaign. The state's campaign finance and ethics watchdog agency filed a lawsuit Thursday demanding that the nonprofit disclose its donors to prove that its legitimately a nonprofit. A hearing is set for later Thursday.

"If he can turn this into a left versus right battle, he can win this war now," Kousser said. "Before, he was fighting off attacks from two flanks."

In recent history, only two propositions garnering below 50 percent support late in the election season came from behind to pass, according to Kousser. A school bond initiative in 2004 barely passed, and Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage in California enjoyed a similar turnaround in 2008.

The lesson? "It's not over until Election Day," Kousser said.

Brown has spent the past week traveling across the state to hold rallies and get his face on TV advocating for Prop. 30. A rally led by the California Federation of Teachers is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at El Rancho High School here in Los Angeles, though Brown isn't expected.

The two major teacher unions have helped pay for outreach efforts with Proposition 30, but most of the state's other unions have focused on defeating Proposition 32 because that would strip them of a key fundraising source. Prop 32 is destined to lose.

"I'm sure the governor's on the phones trying to get the unions to donate, but Prop 32 is fight for survival for unions," Kousser said."They've got to kill this thing dead before they think about a measure putting more money into the state budget."

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