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Campaign against Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal opens fire

April 10, 2012 |  9:19 am

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Opponents of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to raise the state sales tax and levies on higher earners want to kill the measure before it gets placed on the November ballot.

In a preview of arguments that will dominate California politics for the next seven months, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. on Monday unveiled an online campaign urging voters to not sign petitions that Brown's allies are circulating to place the governor's $6-billion tax package on the ballot.

Brown has a narrow window to gather nearly 1 million signatures because he tweaked his plan in a last-minute deal with liberal groups to make its burden fall more heavily on the wealthy. It is a combination of a quarter-cent sales tax hike that would be paid by all California consumers and a series of income tax increases on people earning more than $250,000 annually.

The state Democratic party last week sent petitions to more than 1 million homes and followed up with an automated call recorded by Brown asking voters to sign and submit the petitions.

Brown included the broad-based sales tax in hopes of neutralizing objections from business and keeping any well-funded opposition offstage in November. But it is inevitable that the Jarvis group, whose leader, Jon Coupal, the governor has personally criticized for refusing to allow Republicans to join Democrats in backing tax changes, would step into the fray.

The taxation group's website includes questions it suggests voters ask people gathering petition signatures for the initiative ("Are only millionaires being taxed?" "Are you being paid to help raise my taxes?") and an open letter from Coupal and John Kabateck of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

"Though the idea of a 'tax on the wealthy' may have a populist appeal, we should remember that small business owners will be hit especially hard since many of them file taxes as individuals," the two write. "These are the job creators who should be protected."

The website also charges that the revenues will not go to schools, but into the state budget for Sacramento politicians to spend as they see fit. Brown has proposed slashing public school funding by nearly $5 billion to balance the budget if the tax fails.

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-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento

Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at the National Governors Assn. conference in Washington in February. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press

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