Assessing Tax Hike Proposals in California

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According to political insiders in California, almost a glut of several initiatives is aimed at the November 2012 ballot, all of which have a common objective to raise taxes. The race to make multiple tax measures qualify is inspired by new polls, which show voters’ support for higher taxes to increase school funding. A Field Poll conducted in June showed 59 percent of voters opposing higher taxes to balance the state budget. But a November 2011 poll conducted by the University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times showed that 64 percent would support higher taxes to augment school funding. The poll results clearly indicate that for any tax campaign to be successful, it needs to be built on funding schools as compared to the state budget in general. However, opponents of the move call such a deluge of proposals to be "mutually assured destruction" as they believe it a tough task to persuade voters to approve any tax, especially if the voters are baffled by competing measures.
Here’s a look at the four major tax-increase proposals (additional tax burden is calculated by using data from the Franchise Tax Board, proponents and former legislative tax analysis):

The initiative proposes to raise $7 billion by reducing corporate and personal taxes, while expanding the sales tax to services. Statewide sales tax will increase by a half-cent, where the rich will have to pay a higher marginal income tax rate. The tax shift to local governments will provide money to pay for incarceration as well as other "realigned" state services.
The money raised by this measure will go to K-12 schools, social services, public safety, corrections, and higher education. Annual tax burden for a typical taxpayer is likely to be $123. Though voters may support the move for taxing the wealthy to provide more money to schools, a higher sales tax may make some of them skeptical, who in turn may oppose it.

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'Our Children, Our Future'
$10 billion is proposed to be raised by increasing personal income tax rates on everyone but the poorest Californians. The wealthy will be taxed the most. For a typical taxpayer, the annual cost is estimated to be $222. The money will go directly to school districts and programs for early childhood development. However, the schools may not use such funds to increase the existing salaries or benefits of its teachers and staff. Since higher taxes will go directly to schools, voters may support it. However, since the measure does little to bring down the state's $12.8 billion deficit, and may even kick deeper cuts to other state services, it may face strict opposition from a section of voters.

Think Long Committee
Aiming to raise $10 billion, this measure will extend the statewide sales tax to services. It calls for reducing corporate tax rates, and personal income tax rates, while increasing taxes on out-of-state firms. Initially, the money thus raised will pay down debt. In future, K-12 schools and community colleges will get $5 billion; universities will receive $2.5 billion; cities will get $1 billion; and $1.5 billion will go to county public safety.
The annual cost for a typical taxpayer will be $288. This measure may pass as voters tend to support higher taxes that go to education. However, this measure has drawn the biggest flak from various sections. While critics call the move of decreasing personal income tax rates a clear sign to benefit the wealthy, businesses are against it for taxing services. Even the California Teachers Association is opposing it as it undermines a constitutional funding guarantee where the state must repay schools while enforcing budget cuts.
Restoring California
Proposing to raise $6 billion, this measure aims to increase marginal income tax rate by three percentage points on income between $2 million and $1 million. Income over $2 million will be taxed at an increased rate of five percentage points. A typical taxpayer will have no annual burden for this measure. Three-fifths of the money will go to K-12 schools and higher education, while the remainder will be used by local governments for infrastructure and public safety.
Higher taxes on the rich, where the money would benefit education, may find many takers when the measure is put to vote. However, the lack of fundraising capacity and institutional support from Governor Brown and Democratic Union may make it fail.

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