Brown Appears Unsuccessful at Blocking Other Tax Measures
But until that clairvoyant device shows up, we're left to wonder about the answer. And for Governor Jerry Brown, there's not much success these days in convincing others that it's a recipe for disaster.
My story from Tuesday morning's edition of The California Report is below:
A serendipitous turn of the news cycle led backers of the two most prominent measures outside of Brown's tax plan to both be in the spotlight on Monday. Backers of the "millionaires tax" proposal announced the formal kickoff of their signature gathering campaign, while attorney Molly Munger wooed a Sacramento gathering of school parents and teachers on her broad-based tax hike earmarked for schools.
While the two proposals are demonstrably different, their message to the outside world (and, in a way, to the governor) were the same: there's plenty of room on the ballot, and we're not going away.
In purely structural terms, the edge would seem to go to Munger... even though her initiative hasn't yet received formal title and summary. That's because, unlike the labor and liberal activist coalition behind the millionaire's tax, Munger can rely on her personal fortune -- not individual donors -- to get on the ballot.
And when I asked the question directly, she admitted that's what she's prepared to do.
"We're going to get this on the ballot," said Munger. "And we're going to win, too."But public and private surveys seem to suggest that the union-backed initiative starts out with the pole position. While Munger's plan (which expires after 12 years) creates pretty strict controls about the use of the tax revenues for K-12 education on a school by school basis, it's an increase in income taxes on both the middle class and the wealthy.
Backers of the millionaires tax argue theirs offers more appeal.
"We like ours because it is simple and straightforward," said initiative backer Anthony Thigpenn in a conference call with reporters. "It doesn't put additional burden on those people hurting from the economic crisis and can't afford to pay more."
Thigpenn and Munger also disputed the suggestion that multiple tax hike proposals on the ballot spell collective doom for them all. The millionaire's tax group, in particular, believes past same-subject fights disprove the theory.
Perhaps. But none of those anecdotes are from tax increase initiatives, and so we're left to wonder whether the trend would hold.
Governor Brown has made it pretty clear he believes it wouldn't.
"One of the things about elections: you want 'em simple," Brown said in a December chat with Capitol reporters. "Complexity... gives fodder to the opposition."
The governor's top political consiglieri, Steve Glazer, took to Twitter after the back-to-back Monday events repeating that position. "Stating the obvious," he tweeted. "Competing state tax measures could mean all lose -- that means kids lose," referring to both the tax revenues in all measures earmarked for schools... and perhaps, the notion that Brown's tax could be attached to a series of deep K-12 cuts should voters reject it.
But neither group says Brown has specifically asked them to stand down. The millionaires tax coalition leaders say that they met with the Guv in late December, but didn't hear those magic words. Munger told reporters she's never met with the Guv, though hedged on whether she'd been asked to halt her campaign by First Lady Anne Gust Brown.
Meantime, the governor's fundraising effort continues to pick up steam and -- at this rate -- all three measures could be on the streets gathering signatures by the end of the month.
And just to add another variable to an already tangled issue: the interaction between all three tax raising measures may not end on election day. The tax-the-rich initiative's backers say a court may have to resolve whose tax trumps, should voters approve both theirs and the one from Brown. Meantime, Molly Munger told reporters that a legal opinion says if her tax initiative and Brown's both win on election day, only the governor's state/local realignment language would be enacted... while all of his tax increases would be squashed.