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California education institutions should back Gov. Brown’s tax initiative

By mary clark

May 24, 2012 11:13 p.m.

One wealthy California attorney thinks Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiative for the fall isn’t enough.

Molly Munger, a civil rights attorney, wants to raise income taxes on all but California’s poorest residents to generate funding for schools ““ a considerably less attractive proposal to voters than Brown’s, which would increase taxes on sales and wealthy earners.

The California School Boards Association has endorsed both Brown’s tax measure and Munger’s. But the school board’s stance lacks foresight and is likely to backfire.

Passing either tax measure will be difficult, and the likelihood that voters will approve two simultaneous increases is even lower.

The California School Boards Association’s position shows just how desperate the financial situation is for education funding throughout the state.

At least the association’s backing of Brown’s proposal is a positive step, and other groups like the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees should follow suit to create a united front for California public education including both K-12 and higher education.

While Munger’s initiative provides funding for schools more directly, Brown’s is more likely to pass and would generate revenue for the state overall. Thus, the association should not waste its efforts supporting Munger’s.

Part of the school board association’s concern is that Brown’s initiative provides no new funding for schools, while Munger’s would.

The association’s position is understandable, but simply not rooted in reality.

But raising income taxes, especially on middle-class citizens, will inevitably cause contention among voters, particularly ones already hostile to any sort of tax increase.

That is not to say that Munger’s initiative is not a good one in terms of its goals ““ it could, in its first four years, raise $3 billion that could be used as a new source of funding for schools.

However, it’s the means by which this money is acquired that will matter most to voters.

Middle-class voters will be less likely to pass Munger’s initiative that will raise income taxes across the board. Brown’s initiative will be more attractive to voters, because it relies on sales taxes and California’s wealthiest earners.

At another time, Munger’s initiative could be a feasible one. But now is not that time.

The California School Boards Association should channel its efforts toward the tax initiative that is more likely to pass, as the passage of at least one initiative is crucial for the future of public education in the state.

Email Clark at [email protected]. Send general comments to [email protected] or tweet us @DBOpinion.

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