If there's one thing Governor Jerry Brown has learned during his five decades in the business, it's how to make a deal.
The old-school politician has been forced to compromise on issues ranging from education to the environment (often times drawing the ire of his progressive base). And last week, he did it again, this time taking on the zeitgeist: his much-debated "tax the rich" proposal.
The governor has been pushing his own plan for the past couple months, a measure that would have slightly bumped both the state income tax and the tax rate on the wealthiest Californians. But support for a more liberal, competing "millionaires tax" proposal from a coalition of interest groups has been brewing, and Brown realized that without striking some sort of compromise, a majority of voters might not approve any type of tax reform come November.
So he did what he knows how to do best. He tweaked and tinkered until he found common ground.
The Sacramento Bee detailed the terms of the governor's new tax plan:
The measure is similar in structure to the constitutional amendment initially proposed by Brown, which relied on a temporary half-percent hike in the sales tax and temporary income tax increases for Californians earning more than $250,000. The new version features a quarter-percent hike in the sales tax and steeper increases for higher earners. The sales tax increase would last four years and the income tax increases would last seven years.
California Department of Finance officials estimate that the measure would generate $9.1 billion for the state during its first year of implementation and $7.1 billion in the years to follow.
Democrats have praised the revised proposal: Local pundit and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown called it a "win-win" in his weekly SFGate column.
Republicans, however, balked at the new tiered tax hikes for the wealthiest population. "The new measure exacerbates California's dysfunctional finances," wrote conservative columnist Debra J. Saunders. "It's not as if the rich aren't paying taxes."
Still, raising the burden on the "richest one percent" has long been a talking point for Brown -- even decades before Occupy Wall Street rhetoric slipped into the vernacular. “The people at the top are doing better than ever, the top one percent," he said during a presidential campaign speech at UC Santa Cruz in 1992. “The problem is, is that the one percent...this is the group that controls politics."
In recent days, the governor has offered a series of somewhat softer sound bytes. Yet the essence of his message hasn't changed: California's finances need some serious reforming, and fast.
At a speech in Sacramento last week, Brown insisted that the state's economy would see a brighter future--but not before he had his way with the budget. And that includes implementing a new tax plan.
"I'm promising wine and roses," he told reporters. "But not in 2012."
What do you think of Jerry Brown's new tax proposal? Be sure to let us know in our poll: