Stories Don’t Match on Compromise Tax Hike

Librarian copy

In the ongoing story about the last-minute, compromise tax-hike initiative that Gov. Jerry Brown and a teachers' union are supporting, two narratives have started to take hold in Sacramento.

They both can't be true, because they are in conflict -- even though many of the same people argue both.

The first narrative is: Jerry Brown got rolled in the compromise by the weaker of the state's two teachers' unions, the California Federation of Teachers.

CFT had a competing tax-hike initiative on the ballot, but got Brown to back down on his own initiative, and accept a compromise that looked very much like CFT's initiative.

The moral of this narrative is: Brown is weak, and he's backing an initiative that isn't really his.

The second narrative involves the unusal speed with which the compromise initiative was reviewed and titled by the state attorney general, the department of finance, and the nonpartisan legisative analyst's office.

That's a process that usually takes nearly six weeks. With this compromise, the review and title process took two days.

The explanation given for this speed is that the compromise initiative was so much like Gov. Brown's original initiative that the existing title and summary didn't require much change.

An aide to Attorney General Kamala Harris called me and made this point, emphasizing the similarities between Brown's initiative, and title, and the compromise measure. The moral of this narrative is: the compromise wasn't much different than Brown's initiative.

So which narrative is true? Did Brown accept the teachers' initiative, as many have argued? Or did the teachers effectively win only minor changes to Brown's measure -- changes so minor that it was a snap to review the measure and give it a title?

My own answer: the second narrative is far more accurate than the first.

Brown may have seemed to surrendering politically in making a deal with the competing initiative -- particularly after the governor so forcefully and repeatedly suggested the measure had problems. But the content of the compromise initiative has much in common with Brown's initiative.

The taxes in the compromise are temporary, as they were in Brown's (CFT's initiative had permanent rate increases). There are sales tax increases in the compromise and in Brown's original initiative (CFT's initiative had no sales tax--it was an income tax measure).

That said, the speed of the turnaround for the compromise measure was still extraordinary. In the past, even minor changes and amendments have triggered weeks of review. A two day review and title process remains a record.

Ignored in this chatter is the fundamental question about the compromise initiative. Would it be good to schools and the budget? Or are the tax revenues in the measure too meager, or is the budget system too broken, for anyone to know whether the compromise initiative will work at all.

But that's still another story, and narrative.

 Let us know what you think. Send us your thoughts via Twitter @PropZero or add your comment to our Facebook page.

Contact Us