Working People Must Unite Behind a Single Revenue Plan: the Governor's

February 2012 - The November elections may seem a long time away, but unfolding events demand that we pay attention, and make the right decisions now, to get the results we want then.

Governor Jerry Brown, who couldn’t get a single Republican vote to let voters decide whether to add revenues to balance the budget last year, has decided to bypass their gridlock this year, and collect the signatures himself to place a tax measure on the November ballot.

But he’s not the only one.  And while it may be tempting to want to support other well-meaning groups trying to qualify their own tax increases for the same ballot, we need to unite behind one measure with the best chance of passing.  That’s the Governor’s.

The Governor’s measure, for a temporary sales tax increase and an income tax increase on the wealthiest Californians, would help balance the state budget and allow for job-creating public works projects.

There is reason to be hopeful about its chances.  Recent polls show voter support is strong and increasing.  It’s ahead by a two-to-one margin in one poll.  Reports also show that a broad spectrum of interests are acknowledging that further cuts to education, public safety, and public works investment can only harm California, and are lining up to financially support the measure.  They include business, health care, Indian Tribes, and of course, the Building Trades.

But be certain that the ultra-wealthy radical right will be heard from.  Their agenda of concentrating all the wealth and power into the upper privileged class doesn’t benefit from modest tax increases and greater public investment.  They’ll throw big money up against the measure.

We can win, but it will be a hard fight.

That’s why it’s important to keep other rival tax increase measures off the ballot. History tells us that multiple competing measures on the same subject on the same ballot split up the “yes” vote, and increase the likelihood of frustrated voters opting to reject all of them.  At the very least it would result in the need for higher campaign spending to get any measure passed.  The key, then, to getting a good tax measure passed, is to have only the one best measure on the ballot.

If asked by any group to sign a petition to put a different tax measure on the ballot, we should respectfully decline and instead express singular support for the Governor’s proposal.  Let your friends and co-workers know why they should do the same.

You can also note that contrary to the ceaseless right-wing propaganda, California is not now a high-tax state.  In fact, according to an analysis in the Los Angeles Times, California’s tax burden as a percentage of personal income is lower now than during Ronald Reagan’s last year as governor, and ranks near the national average among the 50 states.  Further, spending for virtually all state programs was slashed during the economic downturn of the last four years, the Times added.

In response, Governor Brown has presented a responsible plan that will help rebuild and restore California’s economy.  It’s a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases that will, combined with the tough actions he took last year, erase the enormous deficit he inherited from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It would temporarily increase the sales tax we all pay by one-half cent.  It would increase the income tax on the wealthiest Californians, who have had too many breaks that the rest of us have been asked to subsidize for too long.  Those increases are 1 percent on incomes over $250,000; 1.5 percent on incomes over $300,000; and 2 percent on incomes over $500,000.

Those increases would raise a badly needed $6.9 billion, avoiding the need for still more unbearable cuts in the public services that benefit us all.

“Putting our fiscal house in order is good stewardship and helps us regain the trust of the people.  It also builds confidence in California as a place to invest and to realize one’s dreams,” Governor Brown said in his State of the State speech.

His tax plan will make California a better place to invest, to work, and to earn a decent living.  We want to maximize its chances of passage.  To do that, let’s support and unite behind his plan, only.

 

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