Our View: Voters may face triple tax-hike threat
It's not good when people want to raise taxes. But, ironically, it may turn out to be good that so many different people want to raise taxes in California. It appears increasingly likely that three competing tax initiatives will appear on the November ballot, which could result in voters rejecting them all.
We don't often agree with Gov. Jerry Brown, who is pushing one of the three tax increases. But we do agree with the governor that several initiatives on the same ballot could confuse voters and divide the pro-tax vote, resulting in none of them passing. The difference is that Brown is distressed by this likelihood. We're delighted.
Promoters of two rival tax initiatives said this week that they intend to proceed with signature-gathering to qualify their respective ballot measures, and subsequent election campaigning at a cost of millions, despite the governor's desire that they do not.
"We've made it very clear to them that we would prefer that they not go forward," a Brown spokesman said Monday.
We are suspicious of claims that California voters will increase taxes. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found a majority favor increasing taxes on the wealthy, but are overwhelmingly opposed to raising the sales tax. We would prefer tax increases weren't considered. But we also can imagine voters will be overwhelmed when confronted by multiple tax increases.
Wealthy attorney and civil-rights advocate Molly Munger disagrees. She is funding a multimillion dollar signature-gathering campaign for a proposed sliding scale income-tax increase to raise $10 billion a year for 12 years, with the money dedicated for education. She thinks voters may approve her initiative and the governor's.
Brown's initiative would raise income taxes for five years from a maximum 9.3 percent to 11.3 percent on people earning more than $250,000 annually, and increase everybody's sales taxes a half percent for four years.
Supporters of a third initiative, dubbed the millionaire's tax, also said Monday that they expect to raise the $2 million needed to put their initiative on the ballot, then up to $10 million more to finance the campaign. That effort is backed by the California Federation of Teachers and the California Nurses Association.
California by virtually every measure is already heavily taxed. It is misguided to rely on even higher taxes to fill the state's budget gap, particularly amid economic hard times. Instead, the state should consider lightening the tax burden such as reducing the state income tax, as is under consideration in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas, or eliminating it altogether as in Texas. More money left in the hands of those who earn it will stimulate the economy and, ironically, probably result in more tax revenue.