SACRAMENTO — As he makes a last-minute push for his November tax initiative, Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he wants to make sure voters "know the stakes" for California's K-12 schools and colleges before they cast their ballots.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Brown said he wants to make sure Californians know about the $6 billion in budget cuts he says will be triggered automatically if Proposition 30 fails.
"I'm going everywhere I can in California to make sure that everyone knows the stakes, and then when they cast their vote they do it in a knowing way," Brown said in between stops in Inglewood and San Diego. "I don't want anybody to wake up the day after the election and be surprised."
With just two weeks remaining before Election Day, the Democratic governor is pitching his initiative with appearances around the state. He says schools will be decimated if voters reject the temporary quarter-cent increase in the statewide sales tax and higher income taxes on those who make more than $250,000 a year.
Brown called the decision "profoundly serious. It's either going to strengthen or weaken our social fabric."
Proposition 30 faces a well-funded opposition campaign that claims the $6 billion the higher taxes would generate each year would not help schools.
In a radio ad that also began airing Tuesday, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal calls it "just another tax increase that will kill the state economy, drive people and businesses out of California, and make families poorer."
Time is of the essence for Brown to seal his argument about the stark choice Californians face, as more than a million of California's 17 million registered voters already have cast their vote-by-mail ballots, according to the tracking firm Political Data Inc.
Brown acknowledged his pitch to increase taxes "is a challenging campaign by any standard," but insisted the measure still is leading. Public opinion polls have shown Proposition 30 with only a narrow majority, but the most recent public surveys were in September, before opposition ads began to air.
"I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm going to do everything I can between now and the Election Day to get the message out that Proposition 30 helps our schools, helps our universities and is part of my effort as governor to finally get the state back on track," Brown said.
The governor said even millionaires who would pay higher tax rates for seven years on income over $250,000 will benefit.
"There are more educated workers, they have a society whose social fabric is more solid," if Proposition 30 passes, he said. "What scientists, what doctors, what artists are waiting to be inspired by a decent education?"