Arguing that passage of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiative was “of apocalyptic importance,” State Assemblymember Das Williams came out strongly in favor of the governor’s revised proposal to plug California’s $9-billion budget hole. Brown changed key details of his initiative last week in response to a pledge by the Federation of Teachers to drop its plans to push a competitive measure on the November ballot. Rather than merely backfill massive cuts made to K-12 schools, Williams said Brown’s new initiative will actually increase the amount budgeted for public education “by a factor of many billions.”
Brown’s initial proposal — to raise the sales tax by half a cent and to increase income taxes on the state’s wealthy — would not have augmented public education. (His compromise plan reduces the sales-tax increase by half but will tax the wealthy more aggressively.) Williams said the Legislature enacted $14 billion in painful budget cuts last year; to cut an additional $9.5 billion, he argued, would have inflicted “irrevocable damage to higher education and to health and human services.”
By eliminating the teachers union’s initiative, Brown has cleared some, but not all, of the competing initiatives for which signatures are currently being gathered. Pasadena civil rights advocate Molly Munger — daughter of Berkshire Hathaway mogul Charles Munger — has declined to pull her dueling tax-the-rich initiative from circulation, contributing instead a few more million dollars to her effort. Although Munger’s initiative is focused exclusively on helping public education, Williams said, “It’s well-intentioned but doesn’t stand a chance.” A recent Los Angeles Times poll showed that 64 percent of those surveyed supported Brown’s new initiative, while only 32 percent supported Munger’s.