Gov. Jerry Brown met with business leaders in San Francisco on Thursday to advocate for Proposition 30, the tax measure on the November ballot that has recently slipped in the polls just weeks before the election.
Several presidents of several Bay Area companies and business groups spoke about the necessity of passing Prop. 30, which would increase for seven years the tax on annual incomes that exceed $250,000. It also would raise the state sales tax by a quarter percent for four years. The money would go into a special fund to pay for education.
“Business people also understand that without a good school system, without a vibrant university system, you cannot grow the economy,” Brown said during a news conference at the Bay Area Council.
Mark Yudof, president of the University of California system, highlighted the drastic cuts to the higher education system during the event. He said the failure of Prop. 30 would mean $375 million in lost funding from the state, possible fee increases for students in the fall and layoffs across the UC system.
“At a university with 60 Nobel laureates, 40 percent poor kids and $5 billion in research every year, then that would be a great injustice to the people of California,” Yudof said of the cuts.
Steve Falk, president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that it is tough for business leaders to line up behind a tax increase, and he noted that several chambers of commerce had taken neutral positions on Prop. 30.
“While it’s hard to get enthusiastic about a tax increase, it’s easy to get enthusiastic about supporting California’s education system,” Falk said.
However, the local Chamber decided to advocate for the tax.
“We don’t think neutral works,” Falk said. “Neutral just means you are really not sure how to act. This Chamber of Commerce knows how to act. We need to move forward, we need to fix education and we need Prop. 30 to pass.”
The push by Brown and business leaders to advocate for Prop. 30 comes as two new polls show that support for the measure has slipped. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday night shows that 48 percent of likely voters would support the tax. In September, support stood at 52 percent. A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll had support lower, with just 46 percent of voters supporting the measure. That is a nine point drop from one month ago, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Why are the polls tightening? That’s what happens with a tax measure,” Brown said.
The governor also took time during the news conference to blast Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership, a group that contributed $11 million to the Small Business Action Committee PAC. The group is campaigning against Prop. 30 while supporting Proposition 32, a ballot initiative that would limit union contributions to political campaigns in California.
“This is probably the worst abuse in the history of California election law since the reform was put in,” Brown said of the issue. “And I just hope they force these shadowy forces to come out from under their rock, or bushes or forest, wherever they dwell. We want to find out who they are.”
The California Fair Political Practices Commission filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court on Thursday asking a judge to force the Phoenix-based nonprofit to answer audit questions about it funders.
The Associated Press contributed to this report