While Governor Jerry Brown’s recently proposed tax initiative does seek to provide $6 billion in new revenue for the state, it is being challenged by three other initiatives, but only one is truly progressive. The California Federation of Teachers has formed a coalition with several other groups, including the Courage Campaign, to push for a tax on millionaires to fund K-higher education. Although some fear that competing initiatives may result in all of them losing at the ballot, we are hoping that everyone will eventually rally behind the CFT proposal, which is the only one that has a good chance at passing.
One of the problems with Brown’s initiative is that it combines a tax on people earning more than $250,000 with a sales tax increase of .5%. This combination means that struggling lower- and middle-class workers will end up paying more for a tax that might not help fund higher education. Moreover, the Governor’s initiative may not be approved by the Attorney General because it fails to pass the test of being a “single purpose” initiative. In fact, one of the hidden aspects of Brown’s proposal is that it moves the responsibility to house certain prisoners from the state to local governments.
The other main tax initiatives are also not progressive, and they have a lower chance of passing. To work through this problem of competing tax proposals, the CFT is pushing for a shared poll that would see what Californian voters would actually support. So far, a coalition of UC unions and students groups is supporting the CFT proposal, but the governor and Democratic members in the legislature are still pushing for a non-progressive solution. The next few months thus will be crucial for all of us to rally around the CFT proposal to make sure that higher education gets funded in a fair and equitable manner.