With almost all the votes counted out on the West Coast, California Gov. Jerry Brown is one of Election Night's biggest winners. By a margin of nearly 54-46, voters approved Proposition 30, a tax hike on individual earners of $250,000 and up in California.
Brown, a Democrat, signed a fiscal year 2013 budget into law that assumed Proposition 30 would pass. If voters had rejected it, that budget would have collapsed like a house of tissue paper, and the implications for K-12 public schools would have been staggering. According to Brown, $4.8 billion in cuts to schools in the middle of the school year were looming if voters said no to the tax hike.
As I documented this summer, California districts for the most part were very cautious about assuming the passage of Proposition 30. And California voters rejected a tobacco tax hike in June to pay for cancer research and discourage smoking, a potentially ominous sign for any income tax increase.
This is a situation where the failure of a ballot measure would have been a much bigger story than its success, considering how much money schools would have lost and how many of them would probably decide to slash the number of school days on their calendars without the tax hike. In all, pro-Proposition 30 campaign spending reached $69.4 million, a tremendous sum. Proposition 38, another proposed tax hike that would have affected a much higher number of Californians, was soundly defeated by a margin of about 73 percent to 27 percent.
In addition, Proposition 32, which would have prohibited unions and corporations from automatically deducting money from employees' wages and using it for political purposes, and would have also banned unions and corporations from contributing to state and local candidates, was voted down 56 percent to 44 percent. This is a victory for the teachers' unions in California, which were very upset about the impact Proposition 32 could have had on their political clout.
So it was a good night for school funding advocates and education union members out in California, and of course, many people count themselves in both categories.