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Why Is the Right Bothering to Campaign Against Tax Initiatives?

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Who needs Republicans when you've got Democrats?

That's the thought that occurs as the campaigns against the two best-known November ballot initiatives get under way. Both would raise taxes temporarily. Prop 30 is Gov. Jerry Brown's initiative to raise income and sales taxes temporarily in combination with a constitutional guarantee of certain funds to local government. Prop 38 is wealthy civil rights lawyer Molly Munger's temporary income tax increase to fund school districts.

In normal times, Republicans, conservatives and businesses would need to launch a campaign to defeat these tax measures. And such campaigns are under way. But this year, it's not clear that such "no" campaigns are necessary.

That's because Democrats are taking care of the "No" campaigns themselves.

Backers of Gov. Brown's Prop 30 have formed a campaign to oppose Munger's measure. And Munger has been criticizing Brown' measure for months. In each case, the objections to the measures is not about raising taxes but about how the money is being spent. Munger's measure would send money straight to school districts. Brown's would put the money into the budget, in a way to forestall triggers that would cut schools.

Since the conservative base is already certain to oppose both measures, it's not clear what Republicans can accomplish by campaigning against them.

Indeed, a fervent, anti-tax, "No" campaign might be a risk. Right now, the Democrats are divided. If Republicans go after the tax measures too hard, they might spur the Democrats to unify behind one measure or the other.

So stand down, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn and friends. The Democrats can defeat their own measures without your help.

 Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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