By Lisa M. Krieger


In passing Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase, California voters signaled a symbolic end to the tax revolt of 1978, when they adopted Proposition 13’s limits on property taxes, supporters said Wednesday.


Proposition 30, a $6 billion-a-year package of tax increases that the governor campaigned furiously for in the final weeks of the campaign, passed with a 54 percent majority, averting major cuts to public education.


The tax package raises income taxes on the wealthy and sales taxes for everyone else.


Most of the money is earmarked for K-12 schools and community colleges, which have suffered due to lack of stable financial support. Brown had warned that failure of the measure would have triggered immediate cuts to schools.


“Californians looked at the state of our schools and said: ‘They are fundamental to who we are, and our future. We need to support public education, because it is a huge driver of our progress,’ ” said UC-Los Angeles history professor Jon Christensen, former director of Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West. “That is a very, very heartening change.”


Rival measure Proposition 38, backed by millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger, was rejected. She spent more than $47 million to promote this measure, which would have increased income taxes on most Californians to raise an estimated $10 billion a year for schools and to pay down state debt.


Proposition 30 raises money through a quarter-cent sales tax increase, along with an income tax surcharge on people earning more than $250,000 per year.


The tax measure won its strongest support among voters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. It passed in Santa Clara County with 62 percent of the vote; Alameda, 73 percent; Contra Costa County, 59 percent; Santa Cruz, 73 percent; Marin, 68 percent and San Francisco, 76.8 percent.


The tax measure held a precarious position in hours leading up to the election, with support below 50 percent, which typically dooms tax initiatives. Brown lobbied hard on Monday to boost support for the measure, traveling to five cities, from San Francisco to San Diego.


Its surprising victory shows that undecided voters made a last minute decision to boost taxes, defying conventional wisdom, noted Christensen. Undecided voters usually vote no on tax measures.


The measure faced opposition funding from outside the state, when an Arizona group called Americans for Responsible Leadership donated millions to fight against it.


Its passage represents a rebuke to 1978’s Proposition 13, which capped property taxes and required a two-thirds vote to pass any future tax increases. This created financial stress for schools, due to funding cutbacks.


Supporters of Brown’s measure said they have grown distressed over the deteriorating condition of public education in California, which many supporters trace to the passage of Proposition 13.


“We have seen the bitter fruits that Prop. 13 has visited on our land. I voted for it because education is clearly the best thing we do as a community,” said Charles Ogle, a Menlo Park tool maker. “When I was growing up, the schools were great, and it seems very unfair that today’s kids haven’t had that advantage. The promise of the Master Plan was broken. For me, that was a ‘wake up’ call.”


Kit Miller of Palo Alto, another supporter of Prop. 30, said “Paying taxes to fund education is basic logic — it’s sad we have lost so many years of revenue for the schools. But now we can make California a leader in education again.”


University of California President Mark G. Yudof welcomed the vote, saying “The passage of Proposition 30 represents an opportunity for California and its political leadership to put public higher education back on a pathway toward fiscal stability. This is an opportunity of great importance, not only to the University of California and other higher education segments, but also to the state as a whole.”


“The majority of Californians decided that the collective interests of the state outweigh one’s own immediate interests,” said SJSU’s Linguistics and Language Development professor Stefan Frazier.


“In the long run, of course, we all benefit. Investing in education during a recession is the best way of getting out of it.”


Kevin E. Thompson, CPA


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