Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters about his campaign for a November ballot… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
SACRAMENTO — Quoting from the New Testament and with his dog Sutter by his side, Gov. Jerry Brown formally kicked off his campaign Wednesday for Proposition 30.
Brown cast the November ballot measure, which would temporarily raise sales taxes and impose an income surcharge on California's highest earners, as a choice between requiring the wealthiest residents to pay more and losing about $6 billion from public schools and universities.
"It's about taking money from the most blessed and giving it to the schools," the governor said.
Money raised by the measure — up to $8 billion next year — would be used mostly to prevent a $5-billion cut from primary and secondary schools and stave off a $250-million reduction in each of the state's two public university systems.
Brown used a Sacramento high school as a backdrop, flanked by education and labor leaders as he unveiled a campaign logo featuring an apple. Sutter, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, was outfitted in a red "YES on 30" vest despite the summer heat.
The governor joked with the crowd, was combative with reporters and even invoked the Gospel of Luke to make his case.
"To those who much has been given, much will be required," he said, adding that the state's highest earners "now have an opportunity to give back."
Proposition 30 is the linchpin of the budget Brown signed in June. The measure would add a quarter-cent to the statewide sales tax through 2016 and add, on a sliding scale, one to three percentage points to the income tax rates of individuals earning more than $250,000 a year. The income-tax hike would expire Dec. 1, 2019.
Brown became testy when asked whether recent financial mismanagement in the parks department, and hundreds of millions of dollars in accounting errors discovered elsewhere, might make voters reluctant to trust Sacramento with more of their tax dollars.
When government proves to be flawed, he said, "What do we do? Do we dismantle the schools? Do we end the Highway Patrol? Do we open the prison doors?" Proposition 30 is "an opportunity to say yes to our schools. This is not about any other issues…. It's not about parks."
Supporters of a rival tax measure, Proposition 38, sent a statement to reporters Wednesday arguing that Brown's plan would not do as much as their measure to help schools. That initiative, backed by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, would hike levies on anyone with an annual income of more than $7,316 to pay for education and childhood development programs.
Other critics of Brown's plan also questioned its benefit to schools.
"The presentation is a shell game," said Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, noting that the money raised by Proposition 30 would not be earmarked specifically for education. "It's built on false promises."
Yes on 30 spokesman Ace Smith said Wednesday's appearance was the first of several campaign events that would take the governor to San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area over the next several days.