Dems Day 2: Brown Passes on Tax Pitch

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Brown skips any tax initiative pitch. (Photo: John Myers/KQED)

SAN DIEGO -- Well, so much for the notion that Governor Jerry Brown would use his big speech at the California Democratic Party convention to pitch his November tax increase initiative.

In a speech running a little more than 11 minutes, and after volunteers handed out glossy signs that proclaimed, "Stand With Jerry," the governor told the party faithful to stand down… for now… on the tax issue.

"You'll get your marching orders soon enough," said Brown in a muted comment about the proposal.

It was, in some ways, a rather unexpected ending to a morning full of rather predictable red meat speeches from state Democratic leaders. And it may have been Brown’s best chance to make his case in front of the party's activist base for why they should support his roughly $7 billion a year temporary tax hike, and not two alternative tax measures being promoted by less prominent but impassioned activists.

"We have a few issues there," he said in a vague reference to that Democratic disagreement. "We'll be talking about that from time to time."

Governor Brown's held fire comes as the convention seems to be full of people talking about a rival measure – the millionaires tax initiative that promises to permanently raise as much as $9 billion in revenue for a number of programs.

Rick Jacobs of the activist Courage Campaign and a leader of that initiative, said he also expected more comment about the measure from Brown.

After the speech, Jacobs also described details of the group’s private meetings with the Brown camp back in December, looking to see if there wasn’t some compromise to craft rather than dueling November initiatives.

Jacobs says his group offered to lower their income tax increase threshold to $250,000 a year single filers (as Brown’s measure does) if the governor would abandon his sales tax increase and if his measure would then earmark some of the revenue for higher education.

But a deal was never struck.

"No one involved got everything they wanted," said Brown adviser Steve Glazer in an email after the governor's speech. "Our measure was the result of broad outreach and collaboration between labor, business, law enforcement and local and state officials."

Even so, Governor Brown's speech was peppered with references that supporters of the millionaires tax are using more than anyone else.

Brown railed against economic inequality that he said is "absolutely undermining and eroding our country." And so, too, were the speeches of the other prominent Democrats in the morning convention gathering.

Meantime, the only visible sign of the governor's marquee initiative was a signature gatherer outside of the San Diego Convention Center.

Gubernatorial adviser Glazer dismissed anything noteworthy about Brown skipping a tax pitch in his convention speech.

"We have been and will continue to talk it," emailed Glazer. "(The) election is nine months away."

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
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