Tax Measure Compromise a Victory for Progressives: What it Means

By Paul Hogarth, reprinted courtesy of BeyondChron

After spending months attacking and belittling the Millionaire’s Tax (which polls showed had far greater support than his own Tax Measure), Governor Jerry Brown struck a compromise March 14 with its backers – allowing a “hybrid” tax measure for the November ballot.

While less progressive than the Millionaire’s Tax, it is a vast improvement over what the Governor had proposed – and will raise more revenue for the state. Without significant infrastructure to wage a statewide campaign, progressives had the weaker hand in negotiation.

The fact progressives had to stand up to a Democratic Governor before cutting a deal demonstrates the sheer arrogance of the Sacramento Establishment – who think they can co-opt a few big unions and ram their flawed proposals down our throats, like they’ve done before.

Grass-roots activists never have a seat at the table, which makes this compromise so historic.

The Governor’s initial proposal – which had the backing of the Democratic leadership in Sacramento, along with SEIU, the California Teachers’ Association & AFSCME, and major corporate funding – would have raised the sales tax by a half-percent, and raised income taxes for those making over $250,000 by 2% for only five years.

The compromise crafted with some supporters of the Millionaire’s Tax would cut the sales tax increase in half, and raise the income tax increases to 3% and extend it to seven years. While not as clear cut as the Millionaire’s Tax, the compromise measure is far less regressive and far more equitable.

Given how popular the Millionaire’s Tax was polling – and given the broad coalition supporting it from the Courage Campaign, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Nurses Association and ACCE – it is incredible that Democratic leaders, rather than get behind and support the measure, spent months urging their progressive base to drop it.

Given that the Millionaire’s Tax was so much more popular than Jerry Brown’s measure, why didn’t progressives hold firm and insist the Governor withdraw his proposition – or at least craft a compromise that was more progressive than the one we got? Simple. Progressives lack the infrastructure to wage a winning, statewide ballot campaign.

At the end of the day, the compromise was something progressive backers of the Millionaire’s Tax can be proud of. Jerry Brown’s initial measure would have put 40% of the tax burden on a sales tax increase. This new compromise puts 85% of the new tax burden on incomes making over $250,000 and $500,000.

Because the compromise is a new tax measure, there won’t be very much time to gather signatures to put it on the November ballot – which will require serious resources to make it happen.

Now that the Democratic Establishment has learned they can no longer ignore or belittle progressive activists on this issue, it’s time we work together to get this compromise on the ballot – and fight to win voter passage in November, as a crucial first step for California.