Gov. Brown wants to ask voters about higher taxes

December 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Gov. Jerry Brown has a question for you: are you willing to pay higher taxes to fund schools, police, and fire departments?

Frustrated with the legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown intends to try an end-run around Sacramento politics and go straight to the voters to raise money. In his tax initiative, he's asking voters to approve a 2 percent tax hike on the wealthiest Californians and a temporary half-cent increase in the sales tax. The money raised would be used exclusively for education and public safety. Reaction to his plan has certainly been quick.

On Monday night, the California Republican Party chairman went as far as endorsing a pro-business plan used by Democrats in New York. Brown concedes his initiative won't solve all of our fiscal problems, but he says it will stop further cuts to education and public safety. In an open letter to Californians Brown announced his plan to tax the rich.

"What's great about the proposal is it's sharing the wealth and it's putting the largest onus on those among us who have the most to share," said Assm. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

The governor's initiative calls for a 2-percent income tax increase for families earning $500,000 or more. It would last five years. It also calls for a temporary half-cent sales tax that Brown says will still be lower than the sales tax six months ago.

"Not only does this hit the job creators, but it hits the working class with a sales tax increase. So, I think there's going to be a broad coalition opposing the governor's tax plan," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Tax Payers Association.

The governor says his initiative would raise nearly $7 billion and it would be used only for education and public safety. But state Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro says increasing taxes won't add jobs.

"So are we just going to keep at this? Or are we going to wake up and do what states like New York did, which is reduce the number of state bureaucrats, reduce taxes and make it easier for people to do jobs? I'm picking the way the Democratic governor of New York did it versus the way Jerry Brown wants to do it," said Del Beccaro.

"If Californians see what reinvesting in our schools do, perhaps in five years we'll be able to have a more productive discussion about how to change the tax system to really make it right for the long term, but at least in the five years it will allow us to invest in education which is so important," said Skinner.

If Brown gets the $807,000 signatures needed to put it on the ballot, Californians would vote on the initiative on the Nov. 2012 ballot.

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