Marisa Lagos and Wyatt Buchanan
Updated 10:23 p.m., Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sacramento — In speeches and ads supporting Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown has largely focused on the initiative’s effect on public school and university funding. He says little, however, about Prop. 30’s significant impacts on public safety and health care.

In addition to raising about $6 billion in taxes annually for seven years, Prop. 30 would amend the California Constitution to permanently set aside funding for Brown’s prison realignment program.

That program, which began in Oct. 2011, has shifted the responsibility – and costs – for incarcerating and supervising tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders from the state to county governments. Prop. 30 would guarantee that county governments continue to receive funding from the state for their extra expenses.

And while California continues to lead the country on the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the stability of the state’s budget is a key factor in the success of the effort. The failure of Prop. 30 would reduce state spending by billions annually, restraining California’s ability to invest in medical care.

Yet the governor has largely pushed aside those aspects of the ballot measure as he has barnstormed the state in recent weeks. At a campaign event in San Francisco last week, Brown mentioned the public safety angle only twice and never mentioned health care, while repeatedly invoking the cuts to schools and universities that would take effect if Prop. 30 fails.

‘Keep it simple’

Asked why he doesn’t talk about everything else riding on Prop. 30, he responded: “Keep it simple.”

University of Southern California political science Professor Sherry Bebitch Jeffe said that tactic – to focus on schools which “everybody cares about” – was “exactly right.”

“You don’t want to overload voters with complexities – when voters are in doubt, they tend to vote no.” she said. “You can criticize the governor, but not for any lack of understanding of the dynamics in this state. … He knows what he’s doing in terms of message.”

That simple message – that Prop. 30’s failure would have devastating cuts to public education – was, from the beginning, by design.

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