Gov. Jerry Brown is turning to robotic telephone calls and mailers in his race to collect enough signatures to place his tax initiative on the November ballot.
The effort, unusual for a signature-gathering campaign, reflects the short time in which Brown must gather signatures and the premium $3 per signature being paid for those gathered on the street.
The California Democratic Party, which paid for the Thursday call and for a follow-up mailer, said the Democratic governor's recorded appeal reached more than 1 million households containing voters thought likely to support the measure.
In the mailer, Brown is pictured talking with children beneath a chalk headline: "SIGN UP TO SAVE OUR SCHOOLS."
Brown and the California Federation of Teachers, originally a rival with its own tax initiative, agreed last month to a compromise measure, proposing to increase the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners. The measure also includes a constitutional guarantee of funding for realignment, in which the state shifted certain law enforcement responsibilities to local agencies.
In his telephone call, Brown, who turns 74 today, says higher taxes are necessary to "save our schools and stop even deeper cuts to public safety." The mailer says "millionaires will pay their fair share," but does not mention Brown's proposed sales tax increase or higher income taxes on people who earn at least $250,000 a year.
Brown previously defended calling his proposal a "millionaires' tax" because millionaires will pay it and because "everybody who makes $250,000 becomes a millionaire very quickly if you save."
Brown and his allies are now trying to collect more than 800,000 valid voter signatures required to qualify for the November ballot, likely by mid-May.
The use of mail is an indication of how short that time is, and how expensive paid signature gathering by clipboard has become for the campaign.
Facing a "very tight timeline," California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said, "We're all doing everything we can to make sure it gets on the ballot."
Michael Arno, whose company is collecting signatures to qualify a rival tax measure backed by Molly Munger, is paying only $1.50 a signature, but his company is giving away cars to top signature gatherers in drawings as an incentive.
Brown and the teachers union, forced to pay a premium because of their late start, "created a price war," Arno said.
He said the mailer may save the campaign time.
"If you can get 100,000 signatures that way, it cuts a week off of what they're doing," Arno said. "So it's a smart move."
Earlier this week, Brown stopped collecting signatures for his original tax measure. His adviser, Steve Glazer, said Brown is confident the signature-gathering effort for the compromise measure is progressing quickly enough.