"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
That's what Democratic Governor Jerry Brown must be thinking as he seeks to fuse his tax increase proposal with the tax "millionaire's tax" initiative proposed by the California Federation of Teachers.
It just might work.
Brown intends to adjust his original measure by reducing the sales tax increase to a quarter cent from his previously proposed one half cent and increasing the income tax obligations of wealthy taxpayers.
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Polls show that the CFT initiative increasing income taxes on the wealthy is faring better than Brown's, thus the adjustment.
Nevertheless, Brown's changes come with a risk. On the one hand, he will keep the CFT proposal from moving forward, with the hope that the voters will decide only one tax increase issue in November.
A single tax increase proposition has the potential for causing less confusion and minimizing any opposition.
On the other hand, he risks angering the California Chamber of Commerce, the powerful, business-friendly group that had quietly supported Brown's first proposal because of the proportionally heavier reliance on sales taxes over higher income taxes. Now the Chamber may reconsider its support, causing frustration for Brown from the anti-tax side of California's delicate political equation.
Still, it's a risk Brown will have to take if he has any hope of building a tax increase coalition.
The simple fact is that California is living on borrowed time, financially speaking. The once "balanced" 2011-2012 budget has imploded into a multi-billion dollar deficit, with the state collecting less than anticipated and spending more than projected. And that's only a precursor to the fun and games that await the 2012-2013 budget mess. Without relief in November, the state will experience budget cuts too painful for almost anyone to imagine.
Thus, Brown's adjustment. He really doesn't have a choice.
Now the question is, will the voters see it that way?