With election 7 weeks away, Proposition 30 media campaign still quiet

Gov. Jerry Brown launches the Prop 30 media campaign on Aug. 15, 2012.
Gov. Jerry Brown launches the Prop 30 media campaign on Aug. 15, 2012.
Julie Small/KPCC
Gov. Jerry Brown launches the Prop 30 media campaign on Aug. 15, 2012.
Gov. Jerry Brown launches the Prop 30 media campaign on Aug. 15, 2012.
Julie Small/KPCC

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Only a third of the ballot propositions pass in California. It’s even tougher to pass one that includes a tax hike. But that’s just what Gov. Jerry Brown is asking voters to do with Proposition 30.

Prop 30 would raise the income tax on Californians who earn more than half a million dollars a year. It would also hike the state sales tax a quarter-percent. The temporary tax hike would prevent $6 billion in cuts to public education, and shore up funds for law enforcement agencies.

Gov. Brown launched the Prop 30 media campaign last month just outside an high school in Sacramento with students, parents, and teachers.

“What is at stake here is not pensions, not parks, not the media, not me.” Brown said. “It’s whether the most privileged and blessed people in our state will pay 1 or 2 or 3 percent more for seven years, or we cut three weeks of school and take a half a billion from our colleges. That’s it. It’s a zero-sum game.”

Brown repeated that message at schools in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

While the governor made the rounds, Prop 30 opponents aired a series of radio commercials telling voters that Sacramento politicians will squander any new tax dollars they get. They point to lawmakers’ approval this year of $4.7 billion in bond funds for high-speed rail, and the recent discovery that the State Parks Department hid $54 million while the public was asked for donations to prevent park closures.

Long-time Sacramento watcher Bob Stern said he’s surprised the Prop 30 campaign hasn’t bought any airtime yet.

“We’re hearing radio ads opposing it, but we’re not hearing any ads supporting it, at least here in Los Angeles,” said Stern, the former president of the Center For Governmental Studies.

Stern said it’s much easier to scare and confuse people into voting "no" on a proposition. But if you want people to vote “yes,” Stern said you need to reach into their TVs.

“TV ads are very important, particularly when it comes to trying to sell the public on raising their taxes,” said Stern. “This is not a motherhood and apple pie measure where you can just say vote for this because it’s reform, you have to convince the public that they’re getting a good deal by voting yes. And that takes a sales job.”

Prop 30 campaign spokesman Mike Roth said the campaign is focused on grassroots organizing through schools, community colleges, universities and community events. As for when the Prop 30 forces will start to spend some of its $27 million war chest on radio and television ads, Roth said, “We will have the resources to effectively get our message out to Californians. And so I’d say stay tuned.”

Prop 30 opponents have raised $1.9 million. Spokesman Aaron McLear, the press officer for Governor Schwarzenegger, said the coalition of anti-tax and small business groups plans to run TV ads. He said they’ll have enough resources to get their message across.