Jerry Brown Should Stop Demanding that Rival Tax Plans Be Dropped

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For months, Governor Jerry Brown has been calling on supporters of rival tax measures to abandon them in favor of his own. Brown has argued that if there are multiple tax proposals on the November ballot, voters will reject all of them out of frustration or confusion. It’s highly debatable as to whether the governor’s argument is correct, but if it is, then it’s becoming increasingly clear that his tax proposal, the most regressive of the three vying for the ballot, is the one that should be dropped.

According to the newest Field Poll, Brown’s proposal, which includes a modest tax on the rich along with a sales tax increase that will impact low- and middle-income families the hardest, only garners 58 percent approval. By contrast, the so-called Millionaire’s Tax, which only targets people earning more than $1 million annually and which Brown believes should be abandoned, enjoys 63 percent approval.

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Clearly, the sales tax portion of Brown’s plan is hurting its chances. The Field Poll shows that only 30 percent of voters approve of raising sales taxes. It’s no wonder. As the Express has previously reported, sales taxes unfairly target the 99 Percent, who already pay higher effective tax rates in California than the wealthy.

In short, the Millionaire’s Tax appears to have the best shot at winning in November, and if Brown really wants more revenues for state government, and truly believes that voters will reject multiple measures, then he should drop his own.

“The Field poll shows the Millionaires Tax has the best chance of passage. This is the fifth poll that confirms the Millionaires Tax has the strongest support from the people of California,” Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said in a statement this morning. “We share the governor's and the PTA’s goals of producing new revenue for education and essential services. We believe our measure is the best way to reach that goal.”

The California Federation of Teachers and the California Nurses’ Association, which are sponsoring the Millionaire’s Tax, have repeatedly refused Brown’s call to drop their measure. But they also are not as worried as he is about voters being frustrated about multiple measures.

Mark DiCamillo, head of the Field Poll, isn’t worried either. DiCamillo, a veteran political observer, told the Chron that multiple tax measures might even work in concert to convince voters that at least one should be approved. DiCamillo noted that in 1998 voters approved a landmark auto insurance reform initiative, even though there were five competing measures on the ballot. “That shows it can be done,” DiCamillo said.

There’s another good reason for having multiple tax measures in November. Large corporations and wealthy special interests may be less inclined to fund an opposition campaign against the Millionaire’s Tax if they can support another tax on the ballot. And so far that appears to be happening. Numerous big companies and wealthy special interests have been pouring large donations into Brown’s measure. They appear to like the fact that it targets the 99 Percent as well as the rich. And if Brown decides to push forward with his proposal, even though it trails the Millionaire’s Tax in the polls, it might help siphon off money that could be used to attack the Millionaire’s Tax.

In other words, Brown should drop his call for supporters of other tax measures to abandon theirs.

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