Now that California voters have affirmatively answered Brown’s prayers by raising taxes to avert substantial cuts in education, the governor is warning his fellow Democrats in the state legislature to curb their spending tendencies.
The warning is needed. Voters who approved Proposition 30 — Brown’s ballot proposal to raise sales and income taxes over seven years — also gave Democrats a super-majority in both legislative chambers for the first time since 1883. Although Prop. 30 was sold to the public on grounds that its revenues would be used for education, some Democratic lawmakers, heady with victory, have already hinted that they want to use some of the money for other programs that have been starved. Adult dental care for the poor, for instance, has been eliminated and spending on public parks reduced.
But in a state that usually considers tax increases anathema, it was the plight of public education that made Prop. 30 viable. Many elementary and secondary schools are overcrowded and struggling to keep up test scores. The state’s two university systems and community colleges have raised tuition and turned away applicants. Brown warned that if Prop. 30 failed, school years would be shortened and tuition for higher education additionally increased.