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Brown's Tax Proposal in Trouble

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Opinion: Brown's Tax Proposal in Trouble

Gov. Jerry Brown announced $8.3 billion in cuts, along with new taxes, in Sacramento.

The latest Field Poll offers some bleak prospects for Gov. Jerry Brown and the state of California. Under the terms of Brown's November ballot proposal, the state sales tax would increase by one-fourth cent for four years, while income taxes would increase for those earning $250,000 or more for seven years.

The proposal is designed to raise about $8 billion annually, erasing half of the state's $16 billion deficit.  

The findings show that 52 percent of the respondents support Brown's temporary tax increase proposal, with 35 percent opposed. Proponents should be anything but excited. If history is any guide, those numbers portend defeat. 

Generally speaking, money-related ballot proposals are most likely to pass when they have support from 60 percent or more going into the election; that's because some people drift to the "no" side with the approach of the actual vote. Remember last week's Proposition 29?

More than the aggregate numbers, the numbers inside the Field Poll tell us much about the divisions within California. In terms of political values, strong conservatives oppose the Brown proposal by a margin of three to one, whereas strong liberals endorse the idea by a hefty nine to one margin.

Age is another area of division. The proposal enjoys solid support from people under 40 years of age, but garners less than majority support from those 40 and older. 

Then there's the matter of income. The higher the income, the weaker the support for the Brown proposal, according to the latest Field Poll. High income voters are the most reliable voters, which underscores the likely outcome as matters now stand.

Some might argue that Brown hasn't done a good job of making his case, although he's been beating the drums on the state's budget woes for more than a year. He has warned us of draconian cuts if the tax vote fails, including three fewer weeks of K-12 public education in addition to the week that most have already lost.

Another possibility is that large numbers of people simply don't care. They've got theirs and it's up to the rest of us to fend for ourselves. If that's the case, this state is in a lot more trouble than most people understand, and all of us--haves and have nots alike--will be paying a hefty price.

Larry Gerston teaches political science at San Jose State University and is the political analyst at NBC Bay Area. 

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