Mixed messages about Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative underscore his struggle pitching Prop. 30 to voters and have provided fodder for foes.
By Michael J. Mishak and Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
October 29, 2012, 8:45 p.m.
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown still has not settled on a central sales pitch for his tax-hike initiative, even though support is shaky and election day is fast approaching.
He has said at turns that Proposition 30 is about fixing Sacramento, supporting local schools and creating jobs. At recent campaign stops, he has said the measure would help stabilize the state budget — even though ads in favor of it say the billions of dollars in new taxes will flow only to schools and cannot be touched by Sacramento politicians.
On the stump, Brown emphasizes that most of the tax increases will affect only the wealthiest Californians. The campaign ads make little mention of that.
VOTER GUIDE: 2012 California Propositions
The mixed messages underscore the Democratic governor’s struggle to persuade skeptical taxpayers to open their wallets and provide fodder for a well-financed opposition to plant doubt among voters. A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed support for the proposal slipping below 50% for the first time.
The shifting “creates uncertainty and makes voters head in the ‘no’ direction,” said John Matsusaka, president of the Initiative & Referendum Institute at USC.
Californians have not approved a statewide tax increase since 2004, when they voted for a levy on those making more than $1 million to pay for expanded county mental health programs.
Brown has acknowledged the difficulty of selling new levies to voters, saying his campaign made a strategic decision not to mention the word “taxes” in its ads.
“It’s hard to find the right phrases, the right words,” Brown said, speaking to reporters after a San Francisco campaign event last week. “Everybody’s so afraid to mention that taxes are even involved. We walk on eggshells.”
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