Defying Jerry Brown, tax proponents launch campaign


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Backers of a $10-billion income tax hike to fund California public schools launched a petition drive on Thursday to qualify the measure for the November ballot, brushing off a poll by Gov. Jerry Brown’s political operation that showed their effort is deeply unpopular with voters.

Brown contends that the tax, and another that targets millionaires, could overwhelm voters when coupled with the tax hike the governor himself plans to place on the November ballot. On Wednesday his top political aide released a summary of a poll showing the $10-billion tax -- the brainchild of civil rights attorney Molly Munger -- only attracts 31% support.


Munger on Thursday said the release was ‘an effort to fog the lens’ and said that her own polling shows voters favor the measure. She declined to release that data, however.

‘The voters want to invest in the schools,’ Munger said. ‘That is where they want to put their hard-earned money. Because they understand that our children are our future.’

The proposal, which has received the support of the state PTA, would hike income taxes across the board, starting for those making $7,000. Proponents argue that, because the state has a progressive income tax, poor families would pay almost nothing and wealthy ones would foot most of the bill. Part of the revenue during the first four years would go toward paying down the state’s debt -- a nod toward the ongoing budget crisis that birthed Brown’s own tax hike proposal. The rest of the funds would go to public schools and early childhood education programs.

Brown proposes a temporary half-cent sales tax hike coupled with higher levies on wealthy families. Munger’s tax would run longer -- 12 years -- and raise more money.

Though the civil rights attorney, who has spent nearly $1 million of her own money to fund the campaign, sounded resolute, she did hold out a potential olive branch, declining to take a shot at the substance of the other two proposals headed to the ballot. All of the efforts are only in their preliminary stages, gathering enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

‘We don’t know what’s going to end up on this ballot,’ Munger said, ‘and we don’t know how all the measures are going to interact.’



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-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento