Scores of demonstrators carrying "No on Prop 30" signs gathered in the parking lot of a store on Rosedale Highway Tuesday to urge voters to reject a school funding ballot measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
GOP elected officials, business leaders and Tea Party activists were among those voicing opposition to Proposition 30, which attempts to raise money for schools with a temporary quarter-cent sales tax and by boosting income tax for those earning $250,000 a year or more.
The rally took place at Abate-A-Weed, which sells pesticides and lawn equipment. Co-owner Darrell Feil said the measure would hurt small business owners.
"Some small business owners will be forced to raise prices or lay off workers or even worse, shut their doors," he said.
Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, state Sen. Jean Fuller and Congressman Kevin McCarthy all urged voters to vote down the tax hike, saying it would hurt the economy and probably wouldn't help schools because the state legislature has repeatedly raided their coffers for other uses.
"I'm a product of public schools. I support public education," McCarthy said. "This measure does nothing to help schools."
Noting that the state already has some of the highest tax rates in the nation, Grove said raising taxes again will encourage Sacramento to "spend like drunken sailors."
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said passing the measure would be "like giving whiskey and car keys to teenaged boys. Let's not do that."
The measure's supporters say the money would go into a dedicated account the legislature can't touch and could not be used for state bureaucracy. Opponents say that's a shell game. The state will merely divert existing money for schools to uses unrelated to education and then replace that with money from the new taxes, they warn.
The governor has prepared a budget that assumes Proposition 30 will pass. If it does not, there will be $6 billion in automatic "trigger cuts" to K-12 schools, colleges and universities and public safety agencies.
That's "government extortion," said Brenda Stephenson, 58, who came to the rally fired up. The state should live within its means instead of asking for more money, she said.
"I could never run a household budget the way the state runs theirs," Stephenson said.