Nobody likes to talk about taxes.
Well, unless you're part of California's political hierarchy. Heading into a presidential election year, taxes are a growing part of the conversation that voters will have to tackle. Given California's perpetual budget crisis, and political dysfunction at the Capitol, it's not unexpected. It's inevitable.
The newest proposal comes from the Think Long Committee for California. Made up of political heavyweights like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former California Gov. Gray Davis and Google executive Eric Schmidt, the group outlined a plan this week to overhaul the state's tax system.
Central to that overhaul is extending the sales tax to services like legal work, haircuts and movie tickets; in fact, everything but health care and education. It's a controversial idea that's been kicked around at the Capitol for several years.
The idea is to reduce the state's over-dependence on the income tax, which has created boom-and-bust cycles tied to the stock market. The personal income tax rate would be simplified and many standard tax deductions, except for mortgage and property taxes, would be eliminated.
These ideas have long been discussed. But Bob Hertzberg, a former Assembly Speaker and member of the group, said Tuesday on KQED, "The difference with Think Long, we've got the resources."
Hertzberg is talking about billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen, who has pledged $20 million to place the reforms on the ballot next November.
But it's a ballot that may be cluttered with tax ideas. One group wants to qualify an oil drilling tax to pay for schools. Another is talking about changing corporate taxes to reflect a company's sales in California, not just its physical presence.
And then there's Gov. Jerry Brown, who is working on his own tax plan to help offset the state's budget deficit.
"I don't think we're at cross-purposes with the governor," Hertzberg said Tuesday, explaining that the governor's plan is more short-term than Think Long's proposal.
But with so many potential measures looming, it could add up to ballot fatigue. And for wary voters, it will make taxes an even harder sell than usual.