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Can Gov. Jerry Brown get voters to embrace proposed tax hikes?

California Governor Jerry Brown at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California on October 27, 2011.
California Governor Jerry Brown at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California on October 27, 2011.
Max Whittaker/Getty Images

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Governor Jerry Brown, hoping to avoid a showdown at the ballot box, has revised his controversial tax initiative to align more closely with a competing plan proposed by the California Federation of Teachers. Combining the proposals reduces the confusing array of measures that voters will face in November from three to two.

Yesterday Brown filed a constitutional amendment to put the combined initiative on the ballot, leaving very little time for supporters to gather the necessary signatures. In the new proposal, Brown’s state-wide half-cent sales tax increase has been cut to a quarter-cent, while the tax increase on the wealthy has gone up.

The governor’s three-tier income tax hike has been revised; the lowest tier of $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for couples remains the same but the upper two brackets would increase by greater amounts than Brown had proposed. CFT’s original measure had no sales tax increase and a two-step increase on earners starting at $1 million per household. California’s Department of Finance estimates the new plan would raise $2 billion more through June 2013 than the governor’s original initiative.

There is still another tax proposal on the ballot, sponsored by civil rights attorney Molly Munger, that seeks an across-the-board income tax to provide $11 billion for public schools. The 11th-hour switch has critics questioning whether Brown will have enough time to get the measure on the ballot. And supporters of the original CFT plan are disappointed that, under the new plan, funds would go to reduce the state budget deficit of $9.2 billion, rather than to the state’s higher education programs.


John Myers, Sacramento bureau chief for KQED's California Report

Elizabeth Ashford, Chief Deputy Press Secretary, Office of Governor Jerry Brown

Carol Kocivar, President, California State Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

Arnold “Arnie” Steinberg, veteran Republican strategist and analyst

Raphael Sonenshein, Executive Director, Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs


Did the governor cave to mollify his liberal allies? Will his strategy work to get voters on board with tax hikes? Is it too late to switch horses in this race?