Tax tussles heading to ballot box 

click to enlarge Choices: Experts say the presence of three tax measures on November’s ballot — including Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping tax package — could drain support for all three. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • Choices: Experts say the presence of three tax measures on November’s ballot — including Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping tax package — could drain support for all three.

“When voters are offered choices among competing [tax] measures, it depresses the support for each of them. The likely result will be all of them failing,” asserts Steve Glazer, Gov. Jerry Brown’s political strategist. Brown has proposed a tax measure for this November’s ballot, and two other groups have proposals of their own, much to Brown’s annoyance.

Supporters for the three tax measures are now gathering the hundreds of thousands of signatures to get on to the ballot; the number required varies depending on whether the state code or the constitution is being amended. The secretary of state must certify the signatures, but there’s no reason to believe the experienced groups behind the initiatives can’t get past this hurdle.

In a nutshell, the measures are:

1. The Millionaire Tax. Quite plainly (and intelligently), the result of extensive polling to determine whom Californians are willing to tax and for what purposes. It would levy a 3 percent tax on any amount one earns over $1 million per year. Estimated to bring in about $6 billion a year, the money would fund K-12 and higher education, services for children and seniors, public safety and road repairs.

2. The Munger Tax. Molly Munger, wealthy daughter of Charles Munger, Warren Buffett’s right-hand man, is the face of this income tax for K-12 education and other early-childhood programs. The rates vary by income, but range from 0.4 percent for people making more than $7,300 a year to 2.2 percent for those who make more than $2.5 million. It is estimated to bring in $10 billion per year.

3. The Brown Tax. A hybrid of income taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year and a half-cent sales tax increase, this proposal is expected to bring in about $5 billion per year for education, including community colleges.

More interesting than the sheer number of proposals is the fact they each acknowledge the deep distrust and downright eyeroll-inducing disdain Californians feel about state government. All three of the measures (at least appear to) earmark the resulting funds for specific purposes. Translation: we’re not even going to bother asking you to give more to the general fund, where it can freely be spent.

And two of the three proposals are temporary. The Munger proposal expires in 12 years; Brown’s income tax would expire after five years and the sales tax after four years. Translation: we know you think we will screw this up and are therefore better off asking for a trial period.

The only permanent proposal is the millionaire tax, and even that one is designed so the funds bypass Sacramento and go to local governments.

Each of the measures needs a majority vote to pass and, to Glazer’s point, it seems plausible that folks who support an income tax increase are likely to choose only one, thus splitting the votes of the willing. But if, as Glazer has said, the competing measures form a “circular firing squad,” it is with sheepish bullets.

Merchant blasts bag fee, floats wrapping paper tax

Last week, the Board of Supervisors voted to expand the single-use plastic-bag ban to all retail locations and require all shops to charge a 10-cent fee for each paper bag or reusable plastic bag they have to provide to customers. Businesses will keep the fees. Before unanimously supporting the law, the supes prattled on endlessly about how much they cared about the input of the community. (A 10-cent surcharge on every use of the word “stakeholder” in the board’s chambers could pay for a spaceship to transport every damnable plastic bag to the moon.)

But at least one business owner wasn’t at those meetings and instead wrote to the board expressing concern about the new law because, “Gifting of a gift bag is my business!”

The owner of a retail gift shop in Noe Valley, she stated flatly: “We will not pay this tax.”

The letter goes on, “The effect of monitoring and related time and attention we would need to comply is also unacceptable at a time when you ask us to create jobs. How about taxing my wrapping paper?”

Lady, don’t give them any ideas.

Pak turns parade into politico comedy roast

Rose Pak is widely considered to be a “power broker,” but did you know she’s also quite the emcee? On Saturday at the Chinese New Year Parade, she sat on a dais with a microphone and (surrounded by a few hundred people) roasted every politician who came past. Stuck in their cars, the red-faced pols just had to grin and bear it. Here are some of my favorite zingers:

David Chiu: “I’m moving to District 3 and I have until August to make up my mind whether I’m going to run or not, so it all depends on how he behaves the next few months.”

David Campos: “He never gossips or plots for your demise, so I like him. A round of applause! I don’t know how many votes that will cost him … that’s the problem. Now Aaron Peskin will go after him.”

John Avalos: “I didn’t say anything bad about you. You’re g-------- lucky. You better work with our mayor, otherwise, you know.”

Scott Wiener: “We worked very hard to get him elected, then he got me really angry and now we’re kind of making up.”

District Attorney George Gascón: “I just read on the blogs that you’re investigating me. What the hell did I do? I elected the first Chinese-American mayor! I read you have an open file on me. I am an open file. You’ll find nothing except that I swear a lot.”

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