The Sacramento Bee in both its editorial position on Sunday, July 8, and its news reporting name the fall California initiative tax measure to preserve funding for our schools Governor Brown's Tax proposal. This naming, this framing, is selected to defeat the proposal. It is not Governor Brown's proposal- it is a proposal from all of us who worked on the Millionaires Tax, from teachers, union members, the majority in the California legislature and all of those who wish to save our schools from further devastation.
The legal title is the Schools and Local Public Safety Act and it will be on the November ballot. We should insist that the press use the proper title for this tax initiative. If passed it would prevent $4.8 billion in cuts from our k-12 schools and $1.3 billion in cuts from our colleges and universities.
California voters are faced with a choice. Shall we raise taxes and fund the schools, or shall we continue the current practice of cut, cut, cut ? In the fall election we will be faced with at least three choices. Continue the present austerity program or choose between two tax proposals. If the anti tax forces have their way and we do not pass new taxes the effects on the schools will be devastating – as will be effects on public safety, health clinics and local services.
What is in it ? What is not?
The Schools and Public Safety proposal is the new combination of the Governor Brown’s tax proposal as merged with the Millionaires Tax proposal. The merger is a modest proposal. Sales tax would go up ¼ cent ( as opposed to the ½ cent originally proposed by the governor)for a temporary period and the taxes of the very well off would be increased. In the Millionaires Tax this increase would have been starting at at incomes of one million per year, in the merged proposal there would be higher taxes in steps for persons receiving $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for couples. Thus, it is no longer a millionaires tax, it is a tax increase for the well off. By the way, some 93% of all the recent wealth generated in the economy has gone to this top 4% of the wealthy. They are doing just fine.
On the ballot the merged proposal is called, The Schools and Local Public Safety Act. It would prevent $ 4.8 billion cuts from our schools. and 1.3 billion in further cuts to colleges and universities. The effort would not restore the schools to their 1980’s level of funding. It would only reduce the bleeding. Class room conditions would not get worse next year. California would still rank 47th. out of the 50 states in per pupil spending.
Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, a frequent voice of the anti tax crowd, calls this a “soak the rich” proposal. That is a slogan to mobilize the right wing. It is not an analysis. The Bee editorial board complains that this form of taxation will not end the volatility of tax collections – an accurate criticism. However, you can’t expect that emergency measures achieve all of your goals. The volatility issue is real and needs to be addressed in the tax code. For example, we could re-establish the vehicle license fee, or we could re-evaluate commercial property regularly for property taxes. Both would reduce the volatility of tax receipts.
In the meantime we need to pass The Schools and Local Public Safety Act to prevent $4.8 billion in cuts from our k-12 schools and $1.3 billion in cuts from our colleges and universities.