Proposition 38 and the Undeclared War of 2012

by on September 14, 2012 · 3 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Economy, Election

By Kimberley Beatty / Special to San Diego Free Press

There is an openly secret war between Prop 38 and Prop 30 and it’s important to understand how this unnecessary conflict happened. Both propositions increase taxes and that’s where the problem begins. Any revenue increase requires a 2/3 vote of both the state senate and assembly. All but two Republican legislators have signed the Grover Norquist Anti-Tax Pledge, vowing to never, under any circumstances raise taxes or even allow the citizens to be able to vote on the issue.

The only possible exception would be a revenue neutral bill, where a tax increase here would be used for a tax cut there. With rare exception, all Republicans fall in line or suffer the retribution response of a vengeful party, including lost leadership positions on committees and recalls.

Given this undemocratic system, it was predictable that in the Spring of 2011 Governor Brown would fail to get enough votes in the state legislature to qualify an initiative to allow citizens to decide whether to extend his temporary taxes on vehicles, sales and income.

So, beginning in the summer of 2011, four different powerful groups started devising their own plans to raise revenue:

1. Think Long California, the brainchild of billionaire Nicholas Bergruen;
2. Millionaires Tax, conceived by the Courage Campaign, SEIU and California Federation of Teachers (CFT);
3. The Governor’s Plan, joined by the California Teacher’s Association (CTA); and
4. Molly Munger’s plan, joined by the Advancement Project and California State PTA.

There was no apparent coordination among these groups, which is the real tragedy and I blame the Governor for his lack of leadership on this. Eventually, all of these proposals got whittled down to the two that remain, Propositions 38 and 30. (Eds. Note: Proposition 30 is covered here.)

Prop 38 is a 12 year temporary tax. It will raise $10 to $11 billion annually in new revenue through a sliding scale income tax increase that varies with taxpayers’ ability to pay. For couples, the increases range from 4/10ths of 1% on incomes, after all deductions, under $35,000 to 2.2% for couples with income, after all deductions, over $5 million. Existing tax credits will offset increases for most couples with taxable income of $40,000 or less. A couple earning $75,000 in income after all deductions would pay an additional $428 each year, while a couple earning $1.5 million after all deductions would pay $27,266 more.

The money is to be placed in a separate trust fund that can only be spent as authorized by the provisions of the Act. The Governor and Legislature are prohibited from using it.

In the first 4 years, 30% of the funds will be placed in a special education debt payment fund to reduce the cost of servicing education bonds to help end state deficits. 60% of the new funds will be allocated on a per pupil basis to all local public school sites – including charter schools, county schools and schools for children with special needs – to improve educational outcomes. 10% of the funds will be used to raise standards and expand access to public preschool and early childhood programs to help prepare children to succeed when they reach Kindergarten.

In the last 8 years, 85% of the new funds will be allocated per pupil to all local public school sites and 15% of the new funds will be used to expand access to public preschool and early childhood programs.

To help close the existing achievement and opportunity gaps, every local school will receive additional per pupil dollars based on the number of students who qualify for free lunches. Proposition 38 gives local communities control of the new education dollars. It requires school boards to adopt procedures for each school to ensure parent, teacher and community input on how the new funds will be spent.

For the first time, school boards are required to provide clear, accurate budgets for each school site. They must explain how every expenditure will improve educational outcomes at the school site and how they will measure and publicly disclose whether those goals have been met.

The initiative will enable schools to provide a well-rounded education that supports college and career readiness for every student, including art, music, physical education, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), vocational and technical education courses, school libraries, school nurses, and counselors. It will make possible smaller class sizes, up-to-date teaching materials and technology, and better-trained teachers – all based on local needs and priorities.

This measure limits what schools can spend from these new funds on administrative costs to no more than 1% and says schools may not use these new funds to increase salaries and benefits. The initiative contains tough, effective accountability provisions that require oversight, audits and public disclosure. For more information go to:

Keep informed about ballot issues facing San Diego area voters, subscribe to “SDFP Voter Guide 2012” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!

This article, obviously, first appeared at San Diego Free Press.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman September 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

As a supporter of public education, I thought I’d vote for both Molly Munger’s Prop 38 and Governor Brown’s Prop 30 in November. But now I understand that the measure with the most votes wins, so it’s one or the other.

I’ve decided I’m going for Molly Munger’s Prop 38.

As you can see from the excellent story here, Prop 38 directly serves K-12 schooling and carries a lot of hands-off restrictions that assure funds will go to classrooms and young students and are not spread around for personnel raises and extraneous expenses.

Prop 38 is carefully-drawn legislation with a sunset clause; has a no-nonsense laser-like focus; boasts a brave and committed sponsor in Ms. Munger who has personally committed a fortune of her own money to its passage and stood up to bullying from Governor Brown; and is being backed by the estimable California PTA.


avatar Kimberley September 22, 2012 at 10:46 am

Thank you for this very nice plug! With your permission, I would like to copy your words above and send to the PTA Board Members in my 34,000 student school district. You have expressed wonderfully the essence of Prop. 38 and Molly Munger, who is passionate about helping the children and those less fortunate. And, as you mentioned, she is extremely brave too!


avatar Jerry September 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

There is a problem with voting for one temporary tax increase initiative and not the other. If the presence of two different tax initiatives splits the pro-tax increase vote, and neither one receives a majority, then both initiatives fail. The measure with the most votes feature only flys if both initiatives receive more that 50% of the vote, a scenario that is not likely today. In that case we are back to square one.


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