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Brown wants his tax plan on ballot

In what he called an end-run around Sacramento’s partisan gridlock, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday unveiled his bid to raise taxes on high earners and boost the sales tax by a half-cent for the next five years.

Brown wants to increase income taxes 1% to 2% for individuals making $250,000 or more, in addition to the sales-tax hike, and hopes to qualify the proposal for next November’s ballot. The new revenue -- up to $6.8 billion per year for the five years, according to administration estimates -- would be used to fund public schools and guarantee money for counties to house more inmates in local jails instead of in state prisons.

The governor announced the proposal, which he called “straightforward and fair,” in a press release, an email to supporters and a Twitter post Monday.

“It proposes a temporary tax increase on the wealthy, a modest and temporary increase in the sales tax and guarantees that the new revenues be spent only on education” and public safety, Brown wrote.

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The governor has been telling Californians for almost a year that he wants them to have a chance to approve higher taxes as an alternative to deeper state budget cuts. He urged state lawmakers to place a proposal for increased sales, income and vehicle taxes before voters last spring but was stymied by unanimous Republican opposition.

In his statement Monday, Brown said he is turning to a signature-gathering effort to put his ideas on the ballot. “I am going directly to the voters because I don’t want to get bogged down in partisan gridlock as happened this year,” he wrote. “The stakes are too high.”

Republicans immediately dismissed the proposal.

“Voters rejected similar tax increases in the past and have shown a strong reluctance in polls to accepting higher taxes to bail out Sacramento,” said a statement by the leader of the Assembly’s GOP caucus, Connie Conway of Tulare.

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Brown is not the only one attempting to go over the heads of lawmakers. A coalition of taxpayer groups is expected to file a proposal Tuesday for a ballot measure that would place a new limit on state spending, a spokeswoman for the groups said. Some Republican legislators had sought a spending restraint in exchange for supporting Brown’s tax plan, but those negotiations fell apart.

The governor adds his initiative to a cluster of other tax measures that have started down the long path toward the fall ballot. Advocates of three of the proposals -- the latest filed Monday by a coalition led by the California Federation of Teachers -- have taken preliminary steps toward qualification.

It remains unclear who may have the financial backing needed to pay for gathering the required petition signatures.

Analysts say competing tax measures on the ballot could confuse voters and hurt all of the proposals’ chances of passing.

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Brown advisors expressed optimism that support would soon coalesce around the governor’s proposal.

Molly Munger, a proponent of one of the other measures, said there has been “healthy communication” between backers of her potential initiative -- an income-tax increase for public schools and early childhood development programs -- and the Brown administration.

Munger said she has talked to first lady Anne Gust Brown and had multiple meetings with administration officials about the November ballot plans.

“People are still processing what their options and opportunities are,” Munger said, adding, “We are always open to talking further.”

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Brown political advisor Steve Glazer said the governor’s proposal was crafted after numerous discussions with other tax proponents.

He expects a broad coalition of business, labor and local governments to back Brown’s plan, he said.

“The governor has taken a lot of time and talked to a lot of people and has made his best judgment as to what a successful measure will comprise,” he said. “This is a reflection of what we see as a common ground.”

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anthony.york@latimes.com


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