Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Analysts say three initiatives could confuse voters
Michael Gardner
Feb. 21, 2012

Tax initiatives at a glance

• Brown’s initiative would temporarily increase the state sales tax by a half-cent on the dollar and hike the personal income tax rate for those earning more than $250,000. The money would go to schools, public safety and other services.

• Molly Munger, a wealthy civil rights attorney and Pasadena resident, has collaborated with the California PTA to propose an income tax rate increase for nearly every Californian that would gradually escalate depending on earnings. Those revenues would be sent directly to local boards, avoiding the Legislature’s grasp. Most of the increase is dedicated to K-12 and 15 percent for preschools and child care programs. It would expires in 12 years. Munger actually has two similar measures pending and her team will decide later which one to push.

• The California Federation of Teachers, joined by the California Nurses Association, targets the wealthy by raising tax rates by 3 percent for those earning $1 million and 5 percent for filers with incomes of more than $2 million. Revenues would go to schools, colleges, senior programs, roads and public safety. It, too, bypasses Sacramento by sending the money to school boards and other local governing bodies. The increase would be permanent.

SACRAMENTO - Unless someone blinks, voters could face three competing measures on the November ballot that will ask them to raise taxes in the name of schools.

The individual merits of each have been largely overshadowed by growing warnings that the powerful sponsors — Gov. Jerry Brown, teacher unions and the PTA among them — must either coalesce behind a single initiative or risk having voters turn down all three.

Better one than none is the advice.

“The more measures on the ballot, the greater the chance for voter confusion. And confused voters tend to vote no,” Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College, said in an email.

Added Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University: “The anti-tax folks are going to let the three sides duke it out and take great glee in knowing they will confuse everyone so much that the ‘no’ side won’t have to work very hard.”

So far, admonitions urging compromise have not been heeded by Brown and supporters of the other measures who have deep convictions and, in some cases, deep pockets to finance the looming campaigns.

“The question is what’s best for our kids,” said Bey-Ling Sha, a San Carlos mother of two boys and the executive vice president of the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs who backs an initiative to increase the income tax on almost everyone, but which puts the biggest bite on the wealthy. The measure is being spearheaded by attorney Molly Munger, a civil rights advocate.

“If a deal could be cut that would be better for kids, sure. But I don’t see that happening. At some point, you have to trust the democratic process,” added Sha, a San Diego State University professor.

Jim Groth, the San Diego-based representative on the California Teachers Association board, said there is still time to reach a deal. But Brown’s supporters, such as the CTA, are convinced their measure — which raises the sales and upper income taxes — will have the broadest coalition because it also helps public safety and social services. While the other measures fund programs beyond K-12, Brown’s has the most diverse distribution list...

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