By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Jul. 15, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
The campaign to establish a state lottery nearly 30 years ago adopted “schools win too” as its theme. And it worked.
Voters responded because education is the single most popular category of public spending, even though in reality, the lottery provides schools with little or nothing in extra money.
This year, Gov. Jerry Brown is using the same theme to sell voters on raising sales and income taxes. The opening words of his measure’s official ballot title are “Temporary taxes to fund education …”
Whether schools would actually benefit from the taxes is very uncertain; he has, however, signed a bill that would slash school spending by $5.5 billion should it fail.
It’s a very risky strategy for a measure that, at the moment, has no better than a 50-50 chance of passage.
For one thing, a recent Field Poll found that voters don’t like school funds being on the chopping block. They could conclude that Brown is holding schools hostage and resent the implied extortion.
For another, a rival income tax measure sponsored by civil rights attorney Molly Munger would unquestionably give schools a substantial boost in money and she could spend some of her large personal fortune to dump on Brown’s plan, as she has done in public appearances.
Munger clearly resents last-minute legislation that placed Brown’s measure at the top of the November ballot rather than near the bottom with hers, and even asked a judge to block the shift. Meanwhile, backers of Brown’s measure have formed a committee to oppose Munger’s – another clue that open warfare is looming.
Finally, by putting all of his eggs in a save-the-schools basket, Brown invites opponents on the right to take potshots at other ways the state is spending money that could go into the classroom, including the north-south bullet train that has become the governor’s signature project.
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