Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Sep. 21, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature fashioned the 2012-13 budget, their evident goal was to persuade voters to finance it by enacting new sales and incomes taxes at the Nov. 6 election.

Toward that end, they decreed that should the tax measure be rejected by voters, automatic triggers would cut spending by $6 billion, all but a fraction of it from education.

Ever since, Brown and other advocates have beseeched voters to pass Proposition 30 to save schools from those cutbacks, including a sharp reduction in the school year.

It is, of course, a form of political extortion, telling voters that if they fail to do what Brown and legislators want, schools will suffer – based on the poll-tested assumption that education is the single most popular thing that government does.

Had they threatened, instead, to cut welfare or close prisons, the political impact would have been much less because those are much less popular than schools.

So will this ploy work, overcoming voters’ historic reluctance to raise taxes?

Brown has been campaigning vigorously, using the school cut warning. However, two new polls indicate that if anything, support has been drifting downward. Approval is now no better than a 50-50 bet – strongly influenced, it appears, by voters’ sour view of the state’s economy and its politicians.

If it doesn’t work, would Brown, et al., allow the school cuts to take effect, or would they pull back, especially since they’d have the influential “education coalition,” including the California Teachers Association, pushing them to reconsider?

Brown has said that there would be no relief from school cuts because there’s no other money available, and the budget he signed seems to bear that out.

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