Business groups that had feared a downward slide if the measure failed and forced huge education cuts, also cheered the win, despite higher tax bills for some Californians.
Brown had "done the near impossible" and given California "the temporary breathing room it needs to continue getting its fiscal house in order, restore our economy to health and avoid additional massive cuts to education and vital local public services," Jim Wunderman, president and chief executive officer of the Bay Area Council, which represents businesses in the San Francisco Bay area, said in a statement.
In winning passage of his initiative, Brown overcame strong voter distrust of state government fueled by a stream of negative publicity over the summer.
Brown was aware of the challenges and did his best to tie the tax initiative to education funding, noted Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California.
"All of this just reinforces just how knowledgeable the governor is about the political process as well as the policy process to make this happen, because it's not easy," Baldassare said.
School districts that were prepared to lay off teachers and cut as many as three weeks of classes were jubilant, as were leaders of the state's university and college systems. The California State University system, which faced a $250 million mid-year budget cut if the initiative failed, was set to hand out $249 per-student tuition refunds for the current semester.
Exit polls showed Brown's initiative did well with minority and younger voters, and that the poorest voters were the most likely to support it. A coalition of community groups that initially backed a separate millionaire's tax claimed credit for turning out some of the new and infrequent voters who they said helped push Brown's initiative over the threshold.
"This coalition of community, interfaith and labor came together because we knew passing Prop 30 would be tough, and believed that a focus on turning out our base voters could be decisive," said Anthony Thigpenn, chairman of a group California Calls.
Williams reported from Los Angeles.