Competing tax measures could jeopardize Gov. Jerry Brown’s ballot initiative

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative could face an uphill battle to gain voter approval if competing tax measures are placed on next November’s ballot.  

Brown filed a ballot measure earlier this month to temporarily increase sales and income taxes to avoid deeper cuts to education and public safety programs as the state faces an estimated $13 billion deficit next year.

“I think this is going to be a very difficult campaign to win the revenues,” said Brown.

Complicating matters for Brown are the numerous competing ballot initiatives seeking to raise taxes to fund the state’s public education programs. As of December, they include:

  • Our Children, Our Future: Local Schools and Early Education Investment Act
  • The Higher Education, Schools, Public Safety and Health Care Preservation Act
  • Millionaires Tax to Restore Funding for Education and Essential Services Act of 2012
  • Tax to Fund Free State Resident Tuition at UC and CSU
  • Tax on Oil and Natural Gas, Revenues to Education

Although a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that six out of ten voters would support Brown’s tax initiative, the numerous tax measures could potentially confuse and frazzle voters.

Brown, who has been in talks with the various proponents, said he hopes to have a clear field for his tax initiative.

“We’re not there yet. In fact, if it creates chaos and confusion, that could be difficult [to win],” said Brown.

Notwithstanding the competing ballot measures, Brown’s tax initiative will also come under attack by anti-tax and anti-government spending groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the California Taxpayers Association, and the Small Business Action Committee. In fact, the three groups together have filed the Government Spending Limit Act of 2012 that would impose spending caps and require surplus tax revenues to go toward paying down the state’s debts. Brown said the proposed spending caps would lead to even deeper cuts.

California’s education, public safety, health care, and social services programs have seen more than $56 billion in cuts over the last four years. These programs will suffer another $1 trillion in trigger cuts beginning in January because state tax revenues fell short of the budget requirements. With a projected $13 billion deficit, the same programs will almost certainly see another round of steep cuts in the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget. If voters reject Brown’s tax initiative next November, then billions more in trigger cuts will take effect starting in January 2013.

“The people of California are saying they don’t want cuts. They’re also expressing reservations about taxes. So when that public dissonance and problem [is there], we ought to resolve it by a vote,” said Brown.  “People can make a choice, and I think it’s a difficult choice.”


Gov. Brown’s tax initiative

If approved by voters, the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012 (PDF) will generate an estimated $7 billion by raising the sales tax by 1/2 cent and income taxes for people making more than $250,000. The tax increases will expire after five years.

The revenues generated will fund local schools, community colleges, and the public safety realignment, which will shift more responsibilities for overseeing parolees and non-violent felons to local governments and help the state fix its severely overcrowded prisons.


Ballot initiatives to increase taxes: 


Ballot initiative to cap state spending: 


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