Dueling Tax Measures Added to California Ballot

By: - June 22, 2012 12:00 am

Whether California taxpayers should dig deeper into their pockets to help lift the weight of a nearly $16 billion state budget deficit will now be up to voters in November.

The Secretary of State’s office announced Wednesday (June 20) that three tax initiatives, including dueling proposals to increase taxes to help fund schools, had received enough signatures to be added to the ballot.

One of the initiatives — pitched by Governor Jerry Brown and backed by a host of labor unions including the American Federation of Teachers — would raise California’s sales tax to 7.5 percent from its current 7.25 percent, while increasing taxes for the next seven years for people making more than $250,000. The tax hikes would generate $6.8 billion to $9 billion next year, according to the state’s Legislative Analyst Office. The funding would benefit K-12 schools and community colleges.

But Brown’s plan faces competition from civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California PTA. They are pushing an initiative, also certified Wednesday, that would increase personal income taxes at tiered rates across most tax brackets for the next 12 years. The measure would raise about $10 billion over the next fiscal year, with most of the money funding K-12 schools and early care and education programs.

One other tax measure on the ballot would earmark $550 million in revenue for projects in energy efficiency. The initiative would require multi-state businesses to figure their taxes solely on sales in-state sales, closing a so-called loophole that allows businesses to choose cheaper options and generating about $500 million next year and $1 billion each subsequent year.

The presence of three tax measures on the ballot could jeopardize the entire lot. “When voters are offered choices among competing [tax] measures, it depresses the support for each of them. The likely result will be all of them failing,” Steve Glazer, the governor’s chief strategist, told the San Francisco Examiner earlier this year.

Other referendums already on the now 11-question ballot would:

  • Repeal California’s use of the death penalty;
  • Revise the state’s “three-strikes” sentencing law to impose life sentences only when the third felony conviction is serious or violent;
  • Toughen penalties for convicted human traffickers;
  • Lower state legislators’ maximum stay in office from 14 years to 12 years;
  • Prohibit the use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes — a measure aimed at unions.

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