"Whatever It Takes," Says Munger on Campaign

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Molly Munger, author of a proposed tax increase earmarked for K-12 schools. (Photo: Nicole Nguyen/KQED)

Attorney and education activist Molly Munger says she will spend as much of her personal fortune as needed to run a statewide campaign for her tax initiative to help K-12 schools.

"We are totally committed to spending whatever it takes to let the people of California know they have this opportunity this year," said Munger in an extended interview in Sacramento on Friday.

Munger later said when pressed that this could, in fact, mean her fully bankrolling a fall political campaign.

The interview was for a coming radio profile of the 63-year-old wealthy Pasadena attorney, a chat in which she talked about the roots of her passion for improving schools and why she thinks that her proposal -- a 12-year proportional income tax increase on the vast majority of the state's taxpayers -- can win.

But for the political insider world, there's likely to be some notice of Munger's newly firm promise to keep the dollars flowing beyond just the qualification stage of an initiative campaign.

The "we" in her answers, Munger said, refer to the resolve of both her and her husband, Stephen English. "We have the resources and we're going to spend them."

Just what resources she'll need to hand over is pretty hard to guess, given the increasing likelihood of multiple tax initiatives on the ballot and a very long list of other initiatives that will likely also have a spot in front of the voters. The last tax hike proposal was the failed 2009 effort by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders for a temporary tax extension to help balance the state budget. That was admittedly a very different campaign, and state records show the effort cost just shy of $16 million. Private musings by political experts seem to suggest that a 2012 tax initiative, one coming in the midst of a crowded general election campaign (2009 was a special election) could cost close to double that amount. And even then, it may not win.

In public comments last month, Munger said that the effort would not be relying only "on our own resources," but that others would be relied on, too. But on Friday, she admitted that she may end up being asked to go it virtually alone when it comes to the millions needed to run the campaign ahead.

Asked why so many political insiders -- from Governor Jerry Brown's inner circle to others -- thought she'd step aside and not qualify her initiative for the November ballot, Munger said she didn't know.

"I do know," she then added, "they don't know me very well."

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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.
  • Private

    For the 2010 election, Meg Whitman wrote a $177 million check


    to buy the office of CA governor . . .

  • Gdislov

    The Governor’s tax proposal is more feasible in this economic climate. Munger’s proposal is not. Average people with small paychecks cannot afford any more of the burden. She needs to put her pride to the side and support the Governor’s proposal. But as with those who need their own personal slice of attention, she will wager going broke to get it. I for one, am going with the Governor’s proposal; so is everyone else I know who votes.

  • Speech85

    I agree with you.  I haven’t made up my mind 100% about the Governor’s proposal (there are things I don’t like about it structurally) but it is the most pragmatic proposal out there.  Most importantly, it does not set up a fight between the cops and the teachers and the counties and the state and the cities which other proposals do.  And frnakly the more I listen to munger, the more she strikes me as a spoilt rich kid who doesn’t listen to anyone but herself.

  • Frank

    I have a much simpler solution:  Just start charging out-of-state tuition for all non-resident students.  School revenues would be increased exponentially, and the increase wouldn’t be at risk of consfication by the State General Fund.

  • Al

    The solution to the education problem is not more money. The solution is to put more competition into the system. But this solution is an impossibility when each teacher is identical to the next teacher and that is exactly what you get with, guess what, SOCIALISM, or any other ism that interfers wtih the competition of competing individuals or groups.
    School is where we should start to learn about our individual nature. We should explore our desire to compete and suceed, to rise to the pinnacle of our individual success.
    But NO, the teacher is trained to beat down this natural desire to get more, to work to excell in all things, to be the very best individual we can be. The Teacher is told to make us all the same, so we can be part of the crowd and fit in. Fitting in is not normal, it is survival only.
    Everyone get in the line and we will all walk the same speed, hold our heads just so, speak the same words, no one should be an individual, we must all be the same.
    This is not what the human being is, we are part of the animal kingdom, we must compete for life is a race to the top. Survival of the fittest, go for the gold. These are the winners and it is who we should be.
     Anyone can stay at the bottom, for the bottom is nothing risked and nothing gained. Our government schools are producing losers because we have losers, by and large for teachers, and it is really not their fault, for they were lulled into this position by a sinister and pervasive bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is the State Education Board and the NEA which was the beginning of the Teachers Union. This is where all of these automatons we call teachers come from. They teach according to a set of rules, and the Administrators of the Schools administrate according to the rules of the NEA.
    This is exactly why the only solution is Charter Schools in competition with these NEA run reform schools.
    If Margaret Munger really wants to reform K12 then she should spend her money opening a string of real schools and run them at a decent profit. This would, over time, force the State Government Schools to to produce a better product or go out of business.

  • Speech85

    Your local school board runs the schools, not the State.  Unless the schools go bankrupt and have to ask the State for money of course.  So your demands have already been met.  We can vote for the taxes now.

  • Donald Gomez

    By “non-resident” students I hope you are including illegal aliens.

  • Donald Gomez

    Beautifully stated. The average, middle-income California taxpayer is already overburdened with taxes.  The Munger Initiative will simply add more to the burden while not fixing the structural problem we have with the bloated and inefficient educational burearucracy.  Taxpayers should be researching their local school systems so they can discover how many layers of inefficient and wasteful bureaucracy exist within the system which siffons taxpayer funds so they don’t reach the classroom.  Taxpayers should be asking themselves “How are my taxes for education being spent now?”  before being so quick to vote to throw even more money down a bottomless pit.

  • Donald Gomez

    Al your comment is brilliant and describes the problem with California in an accurate manner.  My hat is off to you.

  • Frank

    It would be politically incorrect to say that, but if the shoe fits . . .