In November, California voters will have the opportunity to choose between two seemingly similar measures, Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, in order to raise revenue for the state’s public schools.
Though both propositions include tax increases as a means to increase education funding, their supporters have opposing views about which is the most effective tax to implement. As a result, support for each bill to generally be mutually exclusive.
Prop. 30 would increase the sales tax rate by one-quarter cent per dollar for four years and the personal income tax rate for individuals with incomes of over $250,000 for seven years. Prop. 38 would increase personal income taxes at a marginal rate of 0.4 percent at low-income levels and increase in steps to a marginal rate of 2.2 percent for individual taxable incomes above $2.5 million.
“We are in a tough situation here because the state is facing such a huge deficit and we are just so broke,” said Tania Mercado, a junior majoring in policy, planning and development. “But I honestly believe we have lacked responsible administrators and elected people that have failed to allocate our limited resources wisely.”
The 2012-13 California budget increased K-12 education funding by $6.6 billion to $53.5 billion, a move that assumes an increase in state revenue.
“Virtually all of this increase is contingent on the passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Brown’s proposal, which establishes temporary tax increases to fund schools and balance the state budget,” said Dr. Lawrence Picus, vice dean for faculty affairs at the Rossier School of Education, in a statement. “Proposition 38, authored by advocate Molly Munger, which temporarily raises taxes but places limits on how the money can be used, will also appear on the ballot in November.”
The primary purpose of Prop. 30 is to raise approximately $6 billion annually and balance the California budget. Brown proposed the measure as an initiated constitutional amendment.
“If Prop. 30 fails, trigger cuts enacted in the budget would reduce funding by nearly $6 billion, most of it falling on education,” Picus said. “Schools and community colleges would lose $5.35 billion midyear, while both the UC and CSU systems would see their revenues reduced by $250 million each. The remaining reductions, which are comparatively small, would come from other state services.”
Prop. 30 is currently outperforming Prop. 38 in the polls, and many analysts predict it is unlikely that Prop. 38 passes and Prop. 30 fails, as Prop. 30 offers a lower tax increase. It is more likely that Prop. 30 will pass and Prop. 38 will fail, both propositions will fail, or both propositions will pass. The state constitution specifies that if two conflicting measures on the same ballot pass, the one that received more votes would prevail.
“If both measures fail, approximately $5.5 billion in scheduled cuts, mostly from education, would take place,” said Dr. Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of education at Rossier. “These cuts would probably include teacher layoffs and furlough days, among other things. The cuts would be very severe on top of the already sustained cuts that have faced California schools in the past few years.”
Because of the severity of budget cuts schools have already seen, Polikoff recommended that voters look favorably on the propositions.
“What I would say about the two measures is that folks who care about school funding should absolutely vote yes on 30,” Polikoff said. “Whether they also want to vote yes on 38 is another choice.”
Regardless of which measure voters choose, many students felt that at least one needed to pass.
“Cutting funding to education should never be an issue because education is key to everything: to the economy, to healthcare, to technology and innovation,” Mercado said. “It’s a terrible mistake what we have allowed to happen within our state. It’s irresponsible and it’s a shame.”