It is Gov. Jerry Brown's top priority, but Proposition 30, designed to close a $6 billion state budget gap, is no sure thing.
“California cannot afford except to invest in our schools and our future," Brown told supporters Thursday at a California State University Los Angeles campaign event. "Let’s go for it. Yes on 30, yes on 30.”
Prop. 30 would increase income taxes on residents making more than $250,000 each year. That part may be easy to sell, since only 3 percent of all taxpayers would feel the bite.
But the initiative would also increase the sales tax by a quarter percent for everyone. And that's the part that opponents are pointing out.
Still, Brown said the hike it's worth it.
“We are going to have a balanced budget if Prop 30 passes," Brown said. "But if it doesn’t pass, we will be short, and I’m not going to do budget gimmicks.”
Critics argue that Prop 30 will not necessarily increase classroom spending. The money will go to the state's general fund and despite written assurances about accountability and support for schools, there is no guarantee that education will benefit.
“Prop 30 will not increase education spending," said NO on 30 spokesman Aaron McClear. "Instead, it just goes to the politicians to spend on whatever they want.”
Other critics argue that a tax hike would only work with voters if it is paired with reforms, such as allowing merit pay for teachers and eliminating the teacher seniority system.
“If [voters] feel they are getting something for the additional taxes, they will pay," said David Fleming of the Los Angeles County Business Federation. "They’ll probably say yes but right now they don’t because they feel it's all a one-way street."
The Mervin Field Poll, out Thursday, showed that a close vote is likely. The poll showed support dropping below 50 percent, but it also showed 14 percent undecided.
Brown recently said he believes people are just starting to pay attention. Now, he hopes they are paying more attention to him than the well-funded "No on 30" campaign.