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Jerry Brown hails compromise tax proposal

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Gov. Jerry Brown championed an apparent deal with liberal Democrats over dueling tax initiatives as ‘a winning strategy’ Wednesday, while a top Democrat formally outlined the proposal for reporters.

The eleventh-hour deal was reached in hopes of avoiding a showdown between Brown and a coalition of liberal groups led by the California Federation of Teachers that the governor feared could doom his tax-hike proposal this fall.

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At a Capitol press conference Wednesday, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the new plan -- which increases taxes on upper incomes from 1 to 3 percentage points for seven years and includes a four-year quarter-cent sales tax increase -- ‘dramatically increases our chances of success in November.’

But the new measure will face incredibly tight deadlines if it is to qualify for the November ballot. It must be reviewed by three different state officials and gather more than 1 million signatures by early May -- something that has never been done in such a short period of time, experts say.

Steinberg said Brown will continue to gather signatures on his original measure -- which includes a half-cent sales tax hike for four years and a smaller, five-year upper-income tax increase -- ‘as an insurance policy’ in case the new measure cannot gather the signatures in time. Steinberg said the teachers’ federation has agreed to drop its tax initiative, which would have raised taxes on incomes of only $1 million or more.

At a Boeing facility in Long Beach where he was helping unveil the new Dreamliner plane, Brown declined to go into details about the compromise.

When asked why it took him so long to change direction, the 73-year-old governor replied: ‘The life of politics is something that changes and evolves. I don’t have an ego in this.’

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-- Anthony York in Sacramento

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