Too bad Molly Munger isn’t one of those Sacramento politicians she keeps ripping in her ads for Prop. 38. If she was, she might realize that something – anything, actually — is better than the deep budget cuts California schools will face is she manages to send both November tax measures to defeat.
But like a lot of other would-be California power brokers with more money than political savvy, she’s decided her ego is more important than her cause.
Prop. 38, Munger’s baby, would boost taxes on all but the poorest Californians, raising $10 billion a year that would go directly to K-12 schools
Problem is, the $28 million Munger put into the campaign has been cash flushed down the toilet. A month before the election, her measure is opposed by every major California newspaper and not only is on the short end of the polls, but also is running well behind Prop. 30, an opposing tax measure being pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
That’s important, because if both 30 and 38 win, only the one with the greater support takes effect. That means even if Munger wins, she could lose.
So earlier this week, she dumped $3 million into a newly formed organization, the Committee to Defend Prop. 38, which promptly began running TV and radio ads slamming Brown’s tax measure.
A TV ad features the voice of a schoolgirl saying that Prop. 30 sends money to the schools, “but lets the politicians take it out … That’s why Sacramento’s behind it.”
Snarkiness aside, the ad isn’t totally wrong. While Brown’s $6 billion tax initiative is billed on the ballot as “Temporary taxes to fund education. Guaranteed local public safety funding,” it’s really designed to spackle over the state’s budget gap while the economy – hopefully – recovers. Yeah, schools get more money, but some of that new funding will then be subtracted from what California normally would send to the schools, freeing up general fund money for other cash-strapped state programs, such as health care, social services, higher education and all the other things needed to keep California running.
But since Brown and the Legislature optimistically included the Prop. 30 money in this year’s state budget, its defeat would blow a $6 billion hole in California’s financial plan. It also would trigger an already approved list of cuts, including $5.3 billion now earmarked for schools and community colleges.
Now $5 billion in cuts isn’t a problem for schools if they’re getting the $10 billion promised by Prop. 38. But if both measures go down, it leaves schools facing what the Association of California School Administrators described as “almost incomprehensible cuts.”
That’s no problem for opponents of Prop. 30, many of them anti-tax types who argue that the measure’s tax boosts are merely an attempt to avoid the hard and necessary work of slashing the size of state government.
But that’s the straightforward opposition that’s part of any campaign. Munger’s multi-million-dollar snit is something else altogether.
While plenty of education sorts would prefer to see Munger’s measure finish on top, they absolutely don’t want to see anything that might kill both measures, which Munger’s new anti-Prop. 30 attacks have a good chance of doing.
That’s why Prop. 38 supporters like the California State PTA and state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson were aghast when Munger began attacking Prop. 30, adding her voice to the anti-tax, anti-Brown opposition.
“I have urged Molly Munger, in the strongest possible way, not to air any such advertisement,” Torlakson said in a statement. “I am concerned that the anti-Proposition 30 advertisement will create additional confusion about the two measures and lead to the defeat of both.”
Now if Munger was one of those politicians she loves to revile, she might realize that as far as California schools are concerned, something is always better than nothing. And the money from Prop. 30, despite any likely political legerdemain by the governor and the Legislature, is light years better than the crushing cuts a double defeat will bring.
Those politicians, remember, are the people California voters elect to make the hard decisions that affect every part of life in this state. Unlike uber-wealthy single-issue sorts like Munger, Brown and legislators don’t have the luxury of picking a single issue like K-12 education and ignoring everything else that impacts the people who live here.
But that apparently doesn’t concern Munger. If Prop. 38 can’t finish on top, what does it matter whether Prop. 30 passes, regardless of how her all or nothing campaign could affect the future of the state.
John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics.