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How many tax initiatives can Californians handle?

by Lucy Ma, published


This fall, California voters will potentially have the opportunity to vote for not one, but three competing tax measures aimed at addressing the state’s ever increasing budget woes. Governor Jerry Brown, the California Federation of Teachers, and civil rights attorney Molly Munger have all proposed varying tax measures that seek to qualify for the same November ballot.

While essentially trying to address the same issue, the initiatives differ widely in approach, pitching an ever popular “tax the rich” slogan against the more pragmatic proposal of temporarily increasing taxes for the majority of Californians.

Voters tend not to like the words tax hike, much less three times on the same ballot. This seems to be the very argument made by Gov. Brown and his legion of supporters. Brown, who has long sought to clear the field of any rival measures, now faces the reality of having to scramble for monetary and public support against his competition. While the Governor has retained the backing of heavyweights State Employees International Union and the California Teachers Association, recent developments seem to signal a split in labor ranks with Munger gaining the Parent-Teacher Association’s official endorsement, and the powerful California Nurses Association siding with the California Federation of Teachers. By closely examining how each initiative aims to divvy the projected revenue pie, current alliances tend to make a little more sense.

California State Senator Ted Lieu, a vocal opponent of Munger’s initiative, has taken to his Twitter in an effort to consolidate support behind Brown’s plan for fear of confusing voters into rejecting all three.

Simple math: Gov's tax initiative polls at 68%. Say its 53% after funded oppo. If just 4% of voters switch to Munger initiative, Gov's fails — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 10, 2012
If 3 tax initiatives each pull just a few percentage points from each other, none will get to 50%. Then all of education loses, again. — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 8, 2012  
Munger's tax initiative--which hammers the poorest of the poor & middle class--is an absurd initiative that will also kill Gov's initiative. — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 8, 2012  

The trouble with democracy is that everyone has a right to their opinion, and in this case the right to push a competing initiative. Perhaps the Governor will have more luck in qualifying his initiative than he did in getting its predecessor passed through a democrat controlled legislature.

Also worth noting, the Legislative Analyst’s Office has raised serious education concerns regarding Brown’s proposed Plan B, which the Governor would have to pursue through “risky” budget maneuvers should voters reject his multi-billion dollar tax hike at the ballot boxes this November.

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