Questions raised about conflicting California school tax measures
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:48 p.m.
Two competing tax measures that backers promise will fortify flagging education funding in California were the topic of a public forum in Santa Rosa attended largely by education officials Thursday afternoon.
Representatives from the Public Policy Institute of California and the California Legislative Analyst's Office gave an overview of Proposition 30, which is backed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Teachers Association, and Proposition 38, which is supported by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California State PTA.
The two propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot have vied for voter attention and support while battling for similar voting bases.
A Field Poll released Sept. 20 showed 51 percent of likely voters favor Proposition 30, compared with 41 percent who supported Proposition 38.
Officials on Thursday said that both propositions require 50 percent plus one vote to succeed, but that if both pass, the proposition with the most votes will be enacted.
Still others believe that if both pass, elements of the secondary proposition could also be enacted.
"The real answer? It goes to court," said Edgar Cabral, an analyst with the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Many educators expressed chagrin that two measures meant to help prop up school funding, which has been deeply cut in recent years, are competing for attention during this presidential election year.
"It ends up confusing voters, confusing the issues," said Sue Field, superintendent of Bennett Valley School District. "I just don't know who they trust. Molly Munger doesn't feel like a politician the same way the governor does."
The current state budget was built upon the assumption that Proposition 30 would pass. If it fails, K-12 spending will be cut by $4.8 billion for the current school year, according to the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan group.
Proposition 38 is touted as a longer-term fix that keeps revenues separate from the state's general fund.
Proposition 30 would raise sales taxes by a quarter-cent from 2013 to 2016. It would also raise income taxes on incomes greater than $500,000 until 2018.
Proposition 38 would not change the state sales tax rate but would impose a 12-year progressive income tax increase ranging from .4 percent on annual incomes between $14,600 and $34,600, and 2.2 percent for incomes more than $5 million.
Proposition. 30 would change the state constitution to dedicate revenue to the re-aligned public safety and health and human services programs that are now under county operation. But educators have worried that such a shift would actually decrease the state budget totals and negatively affect what schools are paid through the Proposition 98 funding guarantee.
Proposition 98 is a voter-approved funding mechanism for K-12 schools and community colleges that is generally based on economic growth and the number of students.
Proposition 38 would not affect Proposition 98 and would deposit all new tax revenues in a newly created California Education Trust Fund outside of the state's general fund. Proposition 30 revenues would go into a newly created Education Protection Account within the general fund.
Like many districts, Cotati-Rohnert Park School District's school board passed a resolution supporting both propositions.
"We see that without some sort of fiscal relief and support in the upcoming years, our school district, along with many districts around the state, can't survive with these levels of cuts," Superintendent Rob Haley said. "If neither one of them pass, we are in deep, deep trouble."
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @benefield.
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