The November 2012 ballot will become a lightning rod for voters in California when Governor Brown follows through on his plan to place a tax hike on the remaining “wealthy Californians” that have not already relocated themselves or their income sources to other states.
According to the Los Angeles Times reporting earlier today, a legislative source briefed on the proposal but not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press today that the initiative would ask voters to add an extra 1 percent tax on individuals earning more than $250,000 a year, and extra 1.5% on those making between $300,000 and $500,000, and an additional 2% on those making more than $500,000 a year. Joint filers would incur these increases based on 2X their earnings, or $500,000, $600,000 - $1 million, and over $1 million, respectively.
The combination of income and sales tax hikes would allegedly raise about $7 billion, according to the proposal, and expire in 2016. This assumes, of course, that all of the wealthy currently in California continue to declare the same earnings AND do not seek out tax shelter opportunities against these increases. (Does anyone reading this actually believe this assumption will hold true?)
There is little doubt that this initiative will instantly become one that legislative candidates in 2012 will be forced to take a position. Republicans looking for an issue to energize conservative voters to the polls here in California will now have a very powerful one.
California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Becarro wasted no time in releasing this statement immediately following the news:
"There are now 5 separate efforts to raise taxes underway in this state. The last 7 statewide increases have been turned down by the voters. These will be turned down as well because voters know better than Gov. Brown and these tax increase proponents that attempting to raise taxes at this moment is like throwing a drowning man an anchor and telling him to swim harder. Now more than ever, we need a spending cap."
The party’s communications department has already created a new website called "CostOfCAGov.com" that focuses on the outrageous amount of waste at all levels of California government. The site includes a “Waste of the Week” section, as well as discussion groups on key topics.
Governor Brown and state Democrats have testified that California voters have not yet had the opportunity to vote on whether they are willing to pay higher taxes to balance the state budget. However, Republicans point to the May 2009 ballot initiatives, Propositions 1A through 1E, as a recent measuring point to gauge voters’ willingness to pay additional taxes. In fact, the only measure that passed in May 2009 was Proposition 1F, which cut the legislator salaries.
To his credit, Governor Brown is coming through on a campaign promise to put his tax hikes before the California voters. The timing of these tax hikes to coincide with the first legislative elections for the new districts may be a referendum on how strong each district has been restructured for the respective political parties.
Once this initiative is confirmed for the November ballot, rest assured that there will be many others looking to take advantage of the higher voter turnout that this one will bring.