Promoters of Proposition 30 are losing their cool. Until last week, backers of Jerry Brown’s $50 billion tax increase were content to use their $40 million campaign war chest to broadcast ads describing Proposition 30 as a panacea for California education.
However, when the campaign behind a rival tax increase measure, Proposition 38, began airing comparison spots that showed that Proposition 30 revenue could be spent by politicians in any way they choose, while Proposition 38 revenue would go directly to schools, Jerry Brown’s camp went ballistic.
Yes on 30 issued a press release quoting Lillian Taiz of the California Faculty Association: “The Munger family has doubled down today, spending millions on a destructive campaign that would deny our students the education they deserve. If the Mungers do not reverse course immediately, the Munger name may soon be synonymous with devastating cuts to California’s schools and universities.”
The targets of this attack are Molly Munger, who has invested over $30 million of her own money promoting Proposition 38, and her brother, Charles Jr., a reform minded contributor to various political causes. Both are the offspring of Warren Buffet’s business partner, Charles Munger, Sr.
Now, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has been highly critical of wealthy individuals, like Netflix’s Reed Hastings and actor Rob Reiner, who have used their money and/or celebrity to increases taxes on average folks in order to fund their favorite government programs.
HJTA is no less critical of Molly Munger, but to attack her and her brother as if they are part of Attila the Hun’s extended family and are putting the survival of western civilization at risk, shows how desperate Yes on 30 has become.
No longer is the contest for votes between Proposition 30 and 38 a public policy debate. Revising a famous line from “The Godfather,” “It’s not business, it’s strictly personal.”
If the Sacramento establishment thought Molly Munger would respond to personal attacks by assuming the fetal position, they are sorely mistaken. The Proposition 38 campaign is now accusing Brown’s measure of being an “imposter” and Munger has established a second campaign committee that will target Proposition 30 for defeat.
Taxpayers find this feud a bit ironic, when the two camps share so much in common. They both want massive tax increases, but neither mentions the word “tax” anywhere in their expensive advertising. What the argument amounts to is, “My tax increase is better than your tax increase.”
Californians should not concern themselves that the Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 forces are forming a circular firing squad. Based on good public policy, both measures deserve to go down to defeat.
California already has the highest state sales tax in all 50 states — it will go up if Jerry Brown gets his way — and the second highest income tax rate, which will go up if either Brown or Munger have their way. With unemployment almost a third higher than the national average and the state economy still mired in recession, a tax increase is the last thing our state needs.
And improving education? There is so much more that could be accomplished with existing dollars if only the Sacramento politicians were willing to buck the California Teachers Association, a group so powerful that it is called “the fourth branch of government” by insiders.
At every turn, the union puts up roadblocks to reform. Charter schools, teacher evaluations and even legislation that would make it easier to dismiss teachers for grossly inappropriate conduct with students, are stridently opposed. CTA does not want any changes to the status quo and it should come as no surprise that the union is by far the largest single contributor to Yes on 30.
Administrators, too, must be called to task. A 2011 study conducted by Pepperdine University revealed that despite a 24.9 percent increase in total school spending per capita over a five-year period, “Direct classroom expenditures statewide dropped from 59 percent of total expenditures” to as low as 45 percent at some schools.
Clearly, when it comes to education, California can do much, much better and it does not require a tax increase to get there.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.