Brown calls for help in final push for tax hike

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Jerry Brown campaigns for Prop 30

California Governor Jerry Brown campaigns for Prop 30 (AP photo)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown called on teachers Saturday to protect their classrooms by helping him pass a tax increase on the November ballot.

The Democratic governor told about 100 union members that he needed their help for what he called the “difficult campaign” to stave off $6 billion in automatic spending cuts to schools by passing Proposition 30.

“We don’t have too many days left and we need everyone,” he said at the news conference at the Service Employees International Union local 1021 headquarters in San Francisco, which was adorned with “Tax the Rich” signs.

The event kicks off a weekend of canvassing and phone banking by the 325,000-member California Teachers Association in 25 cities from San Diego to Chico.

Brown spoke principally about the tax measure, which would boost the state sales tax by a quarter cent for four years and raise income taxes for seven years on those earning more than $250,000 a year. But the semicircle of teachers standing behind Brown cheered loudest when he mentioned the importance of defeating Proposition 32, which would prohibit the way unions raise money for political activity.

For most of the campaign season, labor activists have been focused on this initiative, which they say constitutes an existential threat because it would ban paycheck deductions, the way unions traditionally raise money to fuel political activity.

Now union leaders say they will turn their attention to Proposition 30, which has been flagging in public opinion polls. On Saturday, teachers held signs promoting both measures.
Betty Robinson-Harris said she was planning to spend the afternoon knocking on doors after Brown’s speech because students cannot bear to lose more days of school due to budget cuts.

“The public has to know and buy in because the children’s education is at stake,” said the 59 year-old early education teacher.

Brown appeared in high spirits, joking with the crowd and doing call and response with them when he listed positions the tax hike might fund, from arts programs to librarians. When his cellphone interrupted him with an eerie science fiction ring tone, Brown riffed on his “Governor Moonbeam” nickname and said, “This is a message from outer space.”

Brown said the tax measure would invigorate grade schools like the ones he attended in San Francisco that have become trapped in cycles of cutbacks. He also pitched the initiative, which if rejected calls for deep education spending cuts, as a way to make sure everyone does their part to help California children.
“I like to quote St. Luke: `From those who have been given, much will be asked,”‘ said Brown, who later added that he will stop by churches in San Francisco and Oakland Sunday to “do a little preaching.”

Brown held rallies at Los Angeles and Sacramento colleges last week, his first public appearances since August in support of the measure he has called his chief priority for the year.

At that point, the initiative had already been under assault for two weeks by Molly Munger, a wealthy civil rights attorney who is sponsoring a rival tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot, and Munger’s brother, a Republican who has contributed millions of dollars to a committee trying to defeat it.
Molly Munger promoted her initiative, which is backed by the state PTA, on Saturday afternoon at the United Latinos Voter Education Forum in Sacramento.

Speaking to reporters after the news conference, Brown said he waited until three weeks before Election Day to start the ground war for his high stakes initiative only out of necessity.

“I’d love to campaign every day, but I’ve been elected by the people as their governor and I have a lot to do,” he said.
Adding to Brown’s troubles this week was the Arizona-based group Americans for Responsible Leadership, which poured $11 million into the Proposition 30 opposition campaign but did not reveal the source of its money. A good-government group on Friday asked California’s campaign finance watchdog to investigate the identity of the donors.

On Saturday, Brown called the donations “complete money laundering” and said that they violated state law because there was no way to know whether the money came from a foreign or even terrorist source.

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