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If you’re one of those drinkers of the Republican Party Kool-Aid (no offense to any intelligent registered Republicans out there) – if you believe our state and nation “doesn’t have a revenue problem, but a spending problem” – if you refer reverently to folks like Mitt Romney as “Job Creators” – if you feel the long-suffering middle class finally sticking up for their own interests constitutes “CLASS WARFARE” – if you fall for the scare story that any taxes levied on corporations or the very wealthy will just be passed on to the rest of us, or that billionaires who might have to pay a little more taxes will up and leave beautiful California in droves on account of it – then this article ain’t for you. You’re gonna think what you think, you’re gonna do what you’ll do, and you’re in the minority anyway.
As for the rest of you – yes, of course California has a big revenue problem, and nowhere left to cut. And NOW we have a problem with TOO MANY revenue-enhancing initiatives qualifying for November’s ballot. As conventional wisdom holds – and, remember, conventional wisdom is USUALLY right – when faced with too many similar-sounding initiatives voters tend to throw up their hands and vote for none of them – which would be the WORST outcome for California. At this point we are looking at three competing revenue measures on the ballot:
The one I support – the “Millionaires Tax,” brainchild of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the Courage Campaign (calling themselves “Restore California“) is by far the most progressive, and polls the best, at 70%. It would restore SIX to NINE BILLION in funding for K-12, higher education, social services, public safety and roads, simply by increasing taxes on only the most fortunate amongst us – namely, raising by 3% the taxes on INCOME over ONE MILLION DOLLARS, and by 5% on income over TWO MILLION DOLLARS.
Now the very feisty California Nurses Association (CNA) has also signed on to this measure. Most of the grassroots of the CTA and SEIU prefer it as well, and are in conflict with their conservative leadership which have decided to back the Governor’s plan. And you may remember my so-far successful efforts to get the Occupy Movement involved in supporting the measure. (It passed the Occupy Irvine GA, and will hopefully spread across California’s Occupies like wildfire.) Here’s an actual millionaire talking it up:
Governor Brown‘s competing initiative, on the other hand, is typical of his “canoe” philosophy of governance, where he “rows a little to the left, and a little to the right.” Governor Brown believes that we should ALL “share the pain,” even though most of us can’t take much more. Governor Brown’s plan would raise taxes on those making $250,000 and over, and raise a sales tax on all of us for the next five years – sales taxes overwhelmingly affecting the poor and middle class. He’s got, like I said, the more conservative SEIU and CTA behind his measure, although their rank and file disagree, and he also has some big business interests backing him, along with much of the Democratic Party leadership.
What if BOTH these measures passed? The framers of the Millionaires Tax considered that possibility, and allowed for it when they wrote their measure, having no problem with a walloping windfall of $13 billion a year for the next five years. But then the Governor, aiming to please his big business backers who hate the Millionaires Tax, did not reciprocate. So the two measures ARE now in conflict – only the one which gets the most votes will go into effect.
Thirdly, to confuse things even more, we have the “Our Children, Our Future” initiative being pushed by civil rights attorney Molly Munger (daughter of billionaire would-be Republican reformer Charles Munger.) This would raise just about EVERYBODY’s income taxes, for a total of 5 billion which would all go to K-12 education and early childhood programs. Here’s a chart that compares the three different plans: (click it for bigger PDF, easier to read)
It’s hard to read here, but as the chart shows, the Millionaires Tax 1) brings in more revenue than the other two; 2) helps in more areas than the other two; and 3) costs the “typical taxpayer” (defined as someone earning 65K a year) NOTHING, while the Governor’s plan costs them $123 and Molly Munger’s $222.
What is Jerry Brown up to?
Democrat activists who showed up at the convention in San Diego a couple weeks ago were fully expecting the Governor to make the case that his plan has the best chance of passing, and that all the enthusiastic Millionaires Tax supporters in attendance should put aside their childish dreams and get behind the grownup plan. But that didn’t happen. Instead, he was very cryptic, deigning only to say:
“Look, we’ve got some issues. We’ve got a tax measure, we have a little, few issues there, and we’ll be talking about that from time to time. You’ll get your marching orders soon enough.”
…and snapping at reporters who tried to get more out of him. This has us thinking that he realizes OUR plan is not only the best but has the best chance of passing, and we’re hoping that he’s looking for a graceful way to back out of his plan. Because the worst thing that could happen for California is for NONE of these plans to pass, and that’s the likely outcome of there being more than one on the ballot.
Look, over the coming months, for Occupiers (and union folks and Democrats) gathering signatures for the Millionaires Tax. We need to get 504,760 by early May to qualify for the November ballot. We’ll be starting at the Occupalooza in Fullerton this coming Sunday. (Much more details on that coming soon!)