SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California voters have approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to raise income taxes on the wealthy and raise the statewide sales tax to fund public education and help balance the state budget.
The Proposition 30 vote was close and its passage was not clear until early Wednesday. It ended up passing with 54 percent of the vote.
“I anticipated this,” Brown said in a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday morning. “It was a good campaign.”
Its passage increases the statewide sales tax by a quarter cent for four years, starting in January, while people who make more than $250,000 a year will pay higher taxes for seven years retroactive to the beginning of 2012.
If voters had rejected it, the Democratic governor had pledged to enact $6 billion in cuts to schools and colleges. He said the passage of Prop. 30 ends the days of the state raiding public education to pay its bills.
“Those days are over,” he said.
The governor said he was confident all along Prop. 30 would pass. Now he says with billions of dollars in new revenue, California must maintain fiscal responsibility.
“Last night, Californians made the courageous decision to protect our schools and colleges and strengthen the California dream,” he said at a news conference at the Capitol.
That was the governor’s pitch all along. Passing Prop. 30 would stop disastrous trigger cuts to California schools.
Wednesday, he celebrated a hard-fought political victory.
“Instead of the state borrowing hat and hand from our school districts, which reached $9 billion, we’re going to stop all that,” he said.
Opponents continue to argue the new revenue is not guaranteed to go to schools but instead will lead to more reckless spending.
“That’s the big banana,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we do it right. The money that came in for Prop. 30 will go into the education trust fund, and the money will be used for schools just like we said.”
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg thanked the voters, saying the state can now start bringing back essential programs slashed to narrow the budget deficit.
“The majority party never shied away from making the hard decisions, making the cuts, cuts that I didn’t come to public office with any desire to make,” he said.
But Republican leadership cautioned Democrats from taking a victory lap. Assembly Republican chair Connie Conway said in a statement, “By no means should the majority party interpret these results as a mandate. Millions of Californians opposed the governor’s tax hikes.”
Brown, who now appears to have a supermajority of Democrats in the Assembly and Senate, was asked how his administration would use that going forward. “With great power comes great responsibility,” he said.
Brown did, however, lay out five priorities going forward: business regulation reform, water rights issues, education, the budget and the controversial high-speed rail project, which he noted received a boost with President Obama’s re-election.
Conservative opponents spent as much as $53 million to defeat the measure, while unions and Democratic activists poured nearly $70 million into the yes campaign.