California oil tax ballot proposal filed


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Political professionals agree that the biggest threat to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $7-billion tax hike initiative for next November is that so many other people want to crowd the ballot with their own tax proposals that overwhelmed voters will reject them all.


So, get this: As Brown was telling reporters in Sacramento on Tuesday that he needed to convince people to drop those competing tax measures, the chairman of the governor’s own political party was filing yet another tax initiative.

This measure would create a 12.5% ‘severance’ tax on oil and gas withdrawn from California. The more than $2 billion it generates would go to higher education and the state’s general fund.

‘I see no inconsistency between this and the governor’s proposal,’ said John Burton, the state Democratic Party chair and former state Senate leader who filed the language with the attorney general’s office.

That’s the same John Burton who recently complained at a party in Sacramento that there are too many tax measures headed toward the November 2012 ballot. (Yes, it’s also the same expletive-dropping Burton who was a hit on a segment on ‘The Daily Show’ last week.)

Of course, all those initiatives are in the earliest stages, have yet to qualify for the ballot and can still be abandoned. They include a millionaire’s tax pushed by progressive groups, a corporate tax hike that would fund ‘green’ projects and an income tax hike to fund K-12 education.

Insiders expect a whirlwind of wheeling and dealing in coming weeks as the governor tries to winnow down the number headed to the ballot. Some energy industry players speculated that Burton’s measure is designed to pressure the oil industry into backing Brown’s tax initiative. Burton scoffed at that.


‘This would be an ongoing source of revenue from an industry that doesn’t pay its burden,’ he said.

[Corrected 3:55 p.m. An earlier version of this post erroneously said Burton complained about excess tax proposals last month. It was on Dec. 1.]


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-Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento