Campaign Trade-off: Tax Cuts vs. Education - NBC Southern California
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Campaign Trade-off: Tax Cuts vs. Education



    This week's gubernatorial debate between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman brought the beginnings of clarity to the election campaign.

    Whitman has revealed herself as a candidate willing to make major reductions in the state's taxation structure to jump start California's beleaguered economy.

    Brown has shown himself to be a candidate who wants to protect California's major programs, most notably public education, at all costs. We can't have it both ways, irrespective of what the candidates claim.

    For Whitman, jobs are the starting point of California's return to glory. By slashing various corporate taxes and fees, she says that California will become more competitive again, leading to a return of the state's manufacturing and innovation economy. If the state's income falters in the short-run, the temporary loss will be more than offset by more jobs--and by extension--more taxes from a broader base down the road.

    For Brown, $5 billion in new tax cuts (Whitman never disputed the number) would be a death knell to the state's budget, which is already in the throes of a $19 billion deficit for the current 2010-2011 fiscal year. More to the point, inasmuch as public education receives the lion's share of state support, public education would be ravaged even more than its current condition. California now ranks No. 46 in per capita public education spending.

    And so, for all the personality assessments, debates of experience versus innovation, and accusations of distortion, the race has taken on a rather simple appearance. The funadmental question is whether taxpayers (and voters) dig deeper to fund basic needs or ease corporate taxation pain now in the hope that reductions will lead to increases down the road.

    The differences are real, the the state's future may well hinge on the approach favored by a majority of the electorate on November 2.

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