High stakes for Calif. Prop 30 Election Day decision

Gov. Jerry Brown on Prop 30
California Gov. Jerry Brown makes a point as he holds a sign in support of Proposition 30, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 in San Diego.
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

(CBS News) In California, no issue has drawn more cash -- or controversy -- than Proposition 30. That ballot question would raise taxes to prevent education budget cuts.

The outcome could lead the way for other states.

California Gov. Jerry Brown says without more money for schools, the California dream is over. "This is about people choosing on or off," he said. "Money into our schools or money out of our schools. It's really stark. ... The California dream is built on great public schools and colleges and universities."

Told it's a tough sell because he's asking people to voluntarily tax themselves, Brown said, "I've looked at the budget. I've cut $20 billion. If the people don't want to give the money, I can understand that, but we then can't spend what we don't have."

Brown's Proposition 30 would increase the state sales tax by a quarter cent and raise income tax rates on people making more than $250,000.

The current state budget assumes Prop 30 will pass, so if it fails, $6 billion in education cuts automatically go into effect. That could shrink the school year by up to three weeks.

Some of Brown's opponents believe that if this fails, he will find a workaround -- that he's simply not willing to cut education by $6 billion. Brown said in response, "If I could find it somewhere else, I would have found it. I don't do this because I have a lot of alternatives. It will be pretty drastic."

The Long Beach School District would face $35 million in cuts on top of the $330 million it has cut since 2008. Nearly 1,000 teachers have lost their jobs and four schools closed. Joe Carlson, co-principal of the Long Beach Poly High School, said, "The fat is trimmed, and we are to the point where we are going to have to go into the marrow here."

His school may lose its music, art, and sports programs.

Jon Coupal is with the No on 30 campaign. He said Prop 30 would be "committing economic suicide for the state of California."

He said, "It would give us the highest income tax rate, the highest sales tax rate, which we already have by the way, and so we think it would inflict horrible damage on the California economy."

Out of state, anti-tax groups have helped fund a $53 million war chest to fight Prop 30. These opponents question if the tax money will really go to schools. They also say raising the sales tax to as high as 10 percent is bad policy.

Coupal said, "Asking for a massive $50 billion tax increase without reforms and without aggressive waste fraud and abuse is a recipe for failure on their part."

The Yes on 30 campaign has raised more than $69 million. But heading into Tuesday's vote, support was below 50 percent -- the threshold Prop 30 needs to pass.

For Ben Tracy's full report, watch the video above.