Think Long Runs Short of Political Energy


If you see a smile on Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's face today it won't be from the reaction to his State of the State speech.

Instead, it's more likely to be from the decision of a tax reform group not to compete with Brown's November ballot tax proposal.

For months, Brown has been campaigning for the voters to pass an initiative that would raise income taxes for the wealthy by up to one percent and increase the sales tax by one-half percent, both for five years.

If passed, Brown projects an additional $7 billion in badly needed new revenues, almost all of which would be earmarked for K-12 competition.

The beauty of the measure is that the tax sources are targeted and temporary.

Brown has faced stiff opposition, but not from the conservative ranks one would normally expect, although that is sure to come down stream. Instead two rival groups have been circulating their own tax increase plans, raising the spectra of a fractured vote sure to bring about defeat for those who would create new state revenues.

Then came today's present.

"Think Long," a group with a $20 million campaign war chest funded by billionaire Nicholas Berggruen, reversed course and postponed its proposal until 2014. The group's plan was much more comprehensive and permanent than Brown's and likely to cut into the Brown proposal.

So far, so good for the Brown team.

But another groupl called the Advancement Project and led by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger, is circulating a proposal to raise income taxes by one percent for all but the very poor, with the estimated $10 billion take directed exclusively for public education.

Like "Think Long," it threatens to splinter the support for Brown's effort.

It's hard to fault Munger's enthusiasm and commitment. California's per capita funding for public education ranks about 45th of the 50 states. $10 billion would go a long way toward improving the funding levels, that is if the proposition qualifies and if the voters accept a proposal sure to impact the middle class.

It now falls upon the education community to fully comprehend that one tax increase proposal has a better chance of garnering public approval than two, that accepting the more modest package proposed by the governor will generate a greater possibility for success than the larger counter-proposal offered by Munger.

Without such solidarity, both packages are likely to fail.

The November election will be crammed with candidacies and ballot campaigns all clamoring for political contributions and public support. Given that political environment, tax increase advocates need to agree on the best way to marshal limited resources.
Sometimes less is more, especially if the less taxing proposal (no pun intended) can gain the greatest support.

Whether that tax reform groups appreciate this axiom remains to be seen.

More on Think Long:

"Think Long" Could Be a Game Changer

Look Out! Here Come the Big Plans! Run for Your Lives!

Delay is Good When Your Name is Think Long

The Promise of the Homeless Billionaire's Thnk Long Committee...

...And the Perils of the Homeless Billionaire's Think Long Committee

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