Without the revenue from the tax measure, Gov. Jerry Brown said California would need to cut $6 billion a year in spending, mostly from the state's education system.

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SAN FRANCISCO — California voters decisively approved a ballot measure that would raise taxes by $6 billion annually over seven years, according to election results Wednesday. Voters heeded the pleas of Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the new revenue was necessary to save the state’s public schools and balance the budget.

The vote — 54 to 46 percent, with all precincts reporting Wednesday — ended an acrimonious, $123 million battle that pitted the governor against conservative opponents in and outside the state. It was a victory for Brown, who had staked his personal prestige on the initiative’s success.

Voters backed the governor’s tax increase because they believe in “our schools and our universities, and in the capacity of our state government to make some wise investments, that will benefit all of us,” Brown said.

Across the country, voters in 38 states considered more than 170 ballot measures on fiscal, political and social issues that, in many cases, resonated nationally.

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In Maryland, voters approved a law that grants an in-state tuition discount to illegal immigrants at public colleges.

The state’s version of the DREAM Act grants in-state public tuition rates to illegal immigrants who attended Maryland high schools for at least three years and meet other conditions.

The law was approved last year from the Democrat-controlled General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley. But the issue landed on the ballot after critics collected enough petition signatures to force a referendum on whether to uphold the statute or strike it down.

Maryland voters also legalized full-fledged casino gambling, embracing a plan to bring a slice of Las Vegas to the doorstep of the nation’s capital and transforming Maryland into one of the most concentrated casino markets nationwide.

Massachusetts voters narrowly rejected legalizing physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses, by 51 to 49 percent, with nearly all precincts counted.

But nowhere was the fight over ballot measures fiercer than in California, where spending on campaigning for and against 11 measures totaled nearly $370 million, according to MapLight, an organization that tracks campaign spending.

Under Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, income-tax rates for those earning more than $250,000 annually would be raised for seven years, and a 1/4-cent increase in the state sales tax — to 7.5 percent from 7.25 percent — would be put in place for four years. Under the income-tax increase, those making $1 million or more would pay 13.3 percent, the most of any state.

Without the new revenue, Brown said, California would need to cut $6 billion a year in spending, mostly from the state’s already battered education system.

Brown, supported by California teachers unions, was tenacious in seeking support for the initiative, but he encountered fierce and sometimes unexpected opposition.

Last month, an Arizona group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, donated $11 million, in part to defeat Proposition 30. Also, Molly Munger, a civil-rights lawyer and the daughter of Warren Buffett’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charles Munger, spent more than $44 million on a rival tax measure, Proposition 38, which was overwhelmingly defeated.

About $135 million was spent in the battle over Proposition 32, which would have outlawed political donations by labor unions. The measure was soundly defeated.

Also in California, voters considered an initiative to end the death penalty. The measure was defeated, semiofficial state results showed.

Supporters, including law-enforcement officials, said administering the death penalty was inefficient and eliminating it would save the state money.

California voters also endorsed a measure that would make the state’s three-strikes law somewhat more lenient by imposing a life sentence only for a third felony conviction considered serious or violent, but they rebuffed another that would have made mandatory the labeling of genetically modified food.

The food measure, Proposition 37, was backed by the organic-foods industry and consumer groups and drew $45.6 million in contributions from companies opposing the measure. They include Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed producer; DuPont, the biggest U.S. chemical maker by sales; PepsiCo, the world’s largest snack-food maker, and Coca-Cola, according to MapLight.

In Los Angeles, voters approved a measure requiring porn performers to wear condoms while filming sex scenes, prompting a pledge by the adult-entertainment industry to sue to overturn the measure.

Measure B would require adult-film producers to apply for a permit from the county Department of Public Health to shoot sex scenes. Permit fees would finance periodic inspections of film sets to enforce compliance.

Voters in Alabama, Wyoming and Montana approved propositions to prevent people from being required to get health insurance, while Florida voters rejected the idea. The measures are intended to block implementation of Obama’s health-care overhaul.

Arizona voters rejected a measure to scrap partisan primaries for all federal, state and local offices except the presidency. They also rejected a constitutional amendment to assert the state’s sovereign control over air, water and other resources. The proposal was aimed at invalidating U.S. environmental laws and taking back federal lands, including national parks.

Michigan voters rejected all six proposals on the ballot, including one that would have expanded the powers of emergency administrators to take over financially troubled local governments, and the ability of governors to appoint them, and another proposal that would have made collective bargaining a right for employees in the public and private sectors.

Compiled from The New York Times, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press

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