Wyatt Buchanan
Updated 11:30 p.m., Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sacramento — Californians will decide two tax measures on the November ballot that would have similar impacts on their wallets but vastly different, and in some ways unknowable, effects on the state’s budget and funding for public education.

Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 are competing for voter support: Under the California Constitution, only one of the measures could take effect, even if both were to win approval, because they conflict with each other.

Both ask taxpayers for tens of billions of dollars more, with the wealthiest 1 percent of Californians paying the lion’s share. Both claim they will help public schools, which is by far voters’ top priority according to myriad polls.

But from there they diverge.

Prop. 38 sends its tax dollars directly to K-12 schools. For the first four years of the 12-year tax, it would also provide $1 billion a year for early childhood programs and $3 billion a year for debt obligations to help ease the state’s budget crisis. Afterward, 85 percent of its funds would go to K-12 public schools and 15 percent to early childhood. None would go to the general fund that pays not only for public education, but also for colleges and universities, public health programs, public safety, welfare and prisons.
General fund

Prop. 30 raises its tax dollars to benefit not only public schools, but also other programs paid for by the general fund including public colleges and universities and public safety programs. The measure also would put into the Constitution a provision to dedicate money from the vehicle license fee, about $6 billion a year, to local governments to cover the costs of state programs that have been shifted to their jurisdictions, such as housing inmates in county jails instead of state prisons.

There’s also another big difference between the propositions: trigger cuts, a set of automatic spending cuts built into the state budget this year if voters reject Prop. 30.

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