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California Ballot Could Be Crowded With Tax-Hike Plans

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(CBS)

(CBS)

SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) – It appears increasingly likely that Gov. Jerry Brown will have competition in November when he asks California voters to raise taxes as a way to stabilize the state’s perpetually out-of-balance budget.

On Monday, proponents of two other proposed tax initiatives pledged that they will have enough money to get their initiatives on the ballot and declined to back down despite entreaties from the Democratic governor.

Each of the three tax campaigns has influential backers that have been politically aligned in the past, a dynamic that could complicate the campaigns by splitting the donor base, dividing grassroots support and confusing voters. Each also would dedicate at least some of the extra revenue to public education.

Molly Munger, a wealthy attorney and civil rights advocate from Los Angeles, outlined her proposal in Sacramento to a supportive crowd at a statewide meeting of the California Parent Teacher Association. The PTA helped draft the initiative, which would increase income taxes on a sliding scale and raise $10 billion annually for 12 years.

“We are going to get this on the ballot and we are going to win, because we’re prepared to not only get it on the ballot, but be sure that it has a very strong campaign behind it,” Munger told reporters after her speech.

The political novice, who is the daughter of billionaire Berkshire Hathaway partner Charles Munger, a partner of Warren Buffett, said she is prepared to fund a multimillion-dollar signature-gathering campaign on her own. She already has contributed $800,000 to the initiative.

Also Monday, supporters of a so-called millionaires’ tax said they were ready to hit the streets with a signature-gathering effort for their own proposal, which would raise income taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year.

Brown has warned repeatedly that a general election ballot containing too many similar-sounding tax initiatives could jeopardize the success of all of them. His political allies have tried to persuade those behind the competing initiatives to unify behind their measures.

The governor has displayed political might by raising nearly $2.2 million for his campaign, but the other groups appear unlikely to succumb at this point.

Supporters of the millionaires’ tax include the California Federation of Teachers, the Courage Campaign and the California Nurses Association. On Monday, they held a conference call with reporters to say they are not backing down.

“We’re the one measure that doesn’t put an additional burden on the back of middle-class and working-class families,” campaign chairman Anthony Thigpen said.

Supporters expect to raise the $2 million they will need to get the initiative on this year’s general election ballot, then another $8 million to $10 million for the campaign, Thigpen said.

Those groups oppose the broad-based sales tax in Brown’s plan, which they said affects those who can least afford to pay more, although the much larger California Teachers Association is supporting Brown’s plan.

The governor’s proposed initiative would boost the statewide sales tax by half a cent for four years starting in January 2013.  It also would raise the income tax rate on those making $250,000 a year, increasing it from 9.3 percent to a maximum of 11.3 percent, depending on the amount of income. The income tax increase would start in January 2013 and last for five years.

A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that likely voters overwhelmingly say they favor raising taxes to pay for K-12 education, but want to do so by raising income taxes on the wealthy and not boosting the state sales tax.

A political spokesman for Brown, Steven Glazer, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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