Yes on 30, no on 38

With the second presidential debate already behind us, it is hard to forget that election season is just around the corner, and it’s not just the presidency that’s at stake. California ballot measures will determine a great deal about the future of our state in the years to come, and Californians need to understand the measures they’re voting for, in order to cast the right vote, before it’s too late to save our drowning state economy. It’s important to understand that our children have as much, if not more, of a stake in the future than we do. Education and public safety are sectors that have suffered from an economic downturn that has kept unemployment in California above ten percent for years now. There is no reason to sacrifice our children’s ability to learn, their opportunity to grow and succeed, or their safety, just so the wealthiest individuals and corporations can continue to grow their bank accounts and their influence.

To this end, both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 have found their way onto the ballots this November, and both of them promise to protect our once exceptional but now ailing public education system by raising taxes. Proposition 38 means more money for schools, but no new revenue for public safety or anything else. Proposition 30 guarantees funding for both education and public safety, a more balanced approach than Prop 38.

Despite attacks against Prop 30—that claim it is a shell game and a deception—it is structured reasonably, and addresses two very important issues facing the California public in a time of economic hardship; it has also been endorsed by the former U.S. President Bill Clinton during a rally for Democratic congressional candidates in Davis, CA.

It bears mentioning just how dramatically budget cuts have affected our schools in the past few years.  According to the California Teacher’s Association, California ranks 47th in per pupil funding, 48th in teacher-to-student ratio, and 50th in librarian, counselor and nurse-to-student ratio. These are low ranks for a state like California, which used to boast the crown jewel of American public education systems.  According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office 2011-12 budget report, $500 million was cut from the Universities of California and the California State Universities, $400 million from the California community college system, another $129 million deferred, and $947 million was cut from the general fund supporting student aid.

These statistics only prove that it has become more difficult for middle or lower income Californian residents to obtain a higher education. Art, physical education, and early childhood programs find themselves on the chopping block in financially stressed districts. For California community colleges, tuition jumped from $600 in 2007-08 to $1,380 in the 2012-13 proposed budget. That is a 130 percent increase in tuition, according to the LAO 2012-13 budget report. These tuition increases will only get worse if Prop 30 doesn’t pass and students will greatly suffer.

Proposition 38 aims to restore funding to the public education systems to pre-recession levels through a series of tax increases that would be distributed broadly. This measure will raise personal income tax and not sales tax. For those of us making over $7,316 annually, taxes would increase on a progressive scale by a minimum of 0.4 percent, while increasing to 2.2 percent on incomes over $2.5 million.

However, this measure will not support public safety, lessening its value. Proposition 38 goes a long way in dealing with the crisis in our education system, but firefighters, police, and social workers would not benefit from these tax increases.

“The biggest shortcoming of Proposition 38,” according to the L.A. Times, is the “fact that it walls off from the general fund most of the money it raises. That’s a real problem for the current fiscal year, which will be over before much of the funding would kick in.”

Proposition 30, on the other hand, does not increase funding to the education system, but rather safeguards current funding levels. The measure has been vocally sponsored by Governor Jerry Brown and would raise the state sales tax one quarter of one percent, from 7.25 to 7.50 percent.  It would also raise marginal income tax rates for single filers making $250,000, $300,000, and $500,000 annually by one, two, and three percent above the current 9.3 percent marginal rate. Joint filers would see the same rate increases on income of $500,000, $600,000, and $1,000,000, respectively.

The revenues from Prop 30 would not only be allocated to schools, but would be distributed to police and firemen around the state, ensuring our safety and preventing further reckless cuts that could seriously threaten our quality of life.

Rather than overreacting to one problem, we must endorse a responsible approach to public welfare. Through shared sacrifice, the residents of this state can stop the state government from hemorrhaging jobs in the public sector, and prepare for a future with a stronger national and state economy.

If Prop 38 passes, then Prop 30 will not be able to pass. Both cannot become laws. “If Proposition 38 attracts a larger majority than Proposition 30,” according to a Los Angeles Times article, “none of the provisions of Proposition 30 will take effect, and vice versa.”

Voting money out of our collective pocket book is never easy. But we owe it to ourselves, to each other, and more importantly to our children, to secure a safe and promising future. Proposition 30 will provide that future for Californians, while Prop 38 will not.