November 11th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
10 years ago

California governor sees tax referendum as sign of changing tide

(CNN) -– Gov. Jerry Brown sees California voters’ openness to temporarily increasing taxes on wealthy individuals’ income as a sign voters nationwide may be open to the idea.

“The cutting and the deficits are out of control,” the California Democrat said Sunday on CNNs “State of the Union.”

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Meanwhile, “in California, you can only cut schools and university so much and then people say, ‘enough already.’ And that’s exactly what they said on Election Night Tuesday.”

Citizens in his state passed Proposition 30 – by a vote of 54% to 46% - last week. Forty-four percent of California voters on Tuesday identified themselves as Democrats, 27% as Republicans, and 29% as independents, CNN exit polling data showed.

The measure institutes temporary increases in the personal income tax for individuals making more than $250,000 and a separate temporary sales tax increase in the cash-strapped state.

The revenue would offset planned spending cuts for education, supporters say. Opponents say the measure would increase taxes by $30 billion to $50 billion without actually reforming schools, pensions or bureaucracy.

On the national level, President Barack Obama has offered a federal deficit reduction plan that does not extend the Bush-era tax breaks on income over $250,000, while Republicans support extending the tax cuts for income of all levels.

A resolution is made urgent by the approaching so-called fiscal cliff: broad spending cuts and tax increases which take effect, absent congressional action, in the new year. Should a resolution not be found, economists expect the U.S. economy would fall into recession.

This week, House Speaker John Boehner said he was open to measures which increase federal revenues, but through closing loopholes and not via an increase in tax rates.

Brown, who was elected governor twice before in the 1970s and has made unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate and presidency, said he sees national implications of Tuesday’s vote.

“When government gets excessive, yes, people want to pull it back. That was the tax revolt,” he told CNN's Candy Crowley. “But when the private sector begins to have more and more, and the public sector is starved, people know that. I mean, it’s common sense. You need a balance.”

Plus, he said, while "billions" sounds large, the increases would be of little significance in his state’s massive economy.

When Brown won his second term as governor in 1978, voters "revolted" against property taxes and passed a proposition limiting rates. It was a measure Brown opposed at the time, but he responded by diverting funds to local government and reducing state spending.

Thirty-plus years later, sentiments may be different.

Brown told CNN that funding for projects such as schools, roads, defense, research and the space program require individuals to contribute.

“All that takes money. It's not all going to come out of Wall Street or out of your local department store,” Brown said. “It requires the people, through their collective institution, called government, to make a greater commitment. And I think they're ready to do it.”

Elsewhere in the country Tuesday, Colorado and Washington state voters supported measures legalizing recreational marijuana.

California state law allows for medical use of the drug, but measures that would legalize recreational use have not passed. Brown said his experiences as governor have not led him to support broader legalization than exists in California now, even considering the potential revenue to be made from taxing it.

But he does support the federal government allowing states to set their policy in this area.

“I think the federal law can maintain, but it shouldn't try to nullify reasonable state measures,” he said. “I'm not saying the state can do anything they want, but the measures that have been adopted so far have been after a vigorous debate.”

Filed under: Budget • California • Jerry Brown • Taxes
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. vic , nashville ,tn

    Voters are supporting Legalizing recreational marijuana, same sex marriage and California voters supporting tax increase
    Wake up republicans ,Dump the tea party and FOX news

    November 11, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  2. plain&simple

    Gov. Brown back in the 70's wanted to start California on the path to solar and wind power.....imagine if we had listened.... instead he became Gov. Moonbeam!!!! Now forty years later people are listening. About time.

    November 11, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  3. FredB

    Why wouldn't the voters be happy to increase taxes on the top income bracket, by far the greater majority of them won't be paying the tax anyway. The top 10% only pay 70% of the taxes now. Soon we get them to pay all the taxes and we can vote ourselves whatever benefits we want, after all isn't that our right???

    November 11, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  4. Mark Ayres

    The country as a whole need to restore a balanced approach to resolving our debt problem. We were on track at the end of the Clinton Presidency to pay off the Federal debt by the year 2010 ... and we blew it. We now have a chance to get back on a solid footing as a country with California leading the way.

    November 11, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  5. leftisloony

    please dont make me laugh.......the "changing tide" the gov refers to will turn out to be the rising tidal wave of debt that will soon swamp california, illinois and ny......check back in a couple years and i'm betting revenues from these new taxes wont match expectations as more taxpayers flee these high tax states and the unchecked spending continues.......then unfortunately, your hero obama will step in to save you loser spendthrifts and then taxpayers across the country will be forced to participate in a federal bailout rescue of failed blue states..........socialism reigns across the land........god help us

    November 11, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  6. Sebastian2

    As the husband of a teacher in a California school, I can tell you that cuts to educational budgets are past the bleeding edge; and it's ridiculous when you break it down in tax dollars, really. People seem to have no trouble leaving their kids in school all day, just as long as it doesn't cost them a little extra in their taxes (say, the cost of one more foam latte at Starbuck's a week...). That kind of selfish thinking has got to change. You want the best for your kids? Fine. But remember there is a human cost. You can't throw them into a room full of machines, or outsource their education to cheaper teachers in India or China....

    November 11, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |

    We republicans belong to an exclusive private American club - let the Democrats exploit their own - not us. NO NEW TAXES.

    November 11, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  8. plain&simple

    It seems to me republicans think they are the only ones who are capable of individual responsibility as well as having no concern for the people less fortunate than themselves.....not a good combination. No community can exist with this attribute. So it will eventually self destruct. Sound familer??? Probably not to the ones so lost in the depths of self absorption, the rest wake up....

    November 11, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  9. Chris

    How did raising taxes on the wealthy making 200,000 or more work out after WW2. Look it up.

    November 11, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. plain&simple

    The problem with being a visionary is not everyone can see it!!!!

    November 11, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. Texan

    Californians can keep dreaming. Companies are movin' from CA to TX every day, and you are losing all that money. You cannot Tax the rich and try resolving your debt. It aint gonna work. Wat n see!

    November 11, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  12. Bart

    First they came for the millionaires,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a millionaire.

    Then they came for the ones making over 250K,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't making over 250K.

    Then they came for the ones making 100K,
    and I didn't speak out because I didn't make 100K.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    November 11, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |