Updated 1:35 p.m., Saturday, September 8, 2012
The last time Californians were presented with such dire warnings about a ballot measure was when a young Jerry Brown was in the governor’s office. Voters in 1978 ignored the pleadings of Brown and the overwhelming majority of the government establishment, state and local, and passed Proposition 13. A good case can be made that the Jarvis-Gann Initiative was every bit as disruptive to the ability of governments to raise taxes to sustain basic services as Brown and others warned.
In some ways, the underlying issues in 1978 and 2012 could not be more different. Prop. 13 was a taxpayer revolt when rising property values were generating so much tax revenue that the state was sitting on a $5 billion surplus. Prop. 30 is Brown’s appeal for Californians to approve about $6 billion in temporary taxes to prevent draconian budget cuts.
One connection between the two measures: Prop. 13′s two-thirds requirement for a tax increase allowed Republican legislators to block all efforts by the Democrats to create new revenue sources, thus forcing them to go to the voters for approval of the tax increases on purchases (from 7.25 to 7.5 percent) and on the top 3 percent of incomes (starting at $250,000 for a single filer).
But the most striking similarity between the two is political. In each case, the governor is trying to make the case that the wrong outcome (yes on 13, no on 30) would destroy public education and other services we count on for economic vitality and quality of life.
In each case, the election is about trust. Do voters really trust government with their money? And do they trust the warnings of what will happen if they squeeze the spigot?
Brown hit the road last week to start making his case that he has done everything he could to make government more efficient.
“This is a high-stakes election here,” he told our editorial board Thursday. “I’ve given everything I have to put it together. It’s practical, it’s reasonable.”
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