Jerry Brown Asks California Voters to Pay $6.9 Billion in New Taxes
Gov. Jerry Brown called on California voters Thursday to approve $6.9 billion in temporary new taxes, including a surcharge on big earners, as part of yet another bad-news budget proposal, this one for 2012. He warned that without those tax increases, California would be forced to impose severe cuts in public schools that could reduce the school year by three weeks.
Mr. Brown said that California was in significantly better shape than it was a year ago when he took office, pointing both to very gradual improvements in the economy and to cuts put in place in the current budget. The state still faces a shortfall of $9.2 billion next year, compared with a $26.6 billion shortfall last year.
But his latest budget proposal made clear that California has not emerged from what has proved to be the most difficult and destructive fiscal storm in its history.
Even if voters approve the taxes Mr. Brown proposed as part of the $92 billion budget for 2012 — which is far from certain — this budget still contains a new round of $4.2 billion in cuts, mainly to welfare and home health care. Last year, the state imposed over $5 billion in spending cuts.
“We’re doing the best we can,” Mr. Brown said at a news conference that served as a reminder of the extent to which budget problems have dominated his first year in office. “What I’ve laid out is going to be very hard to digest.”
Mr. Brown said he would ask voters in November for a total of $6.9 billion in taxes, in the form of a temporary income tax surcharge on those making over $250,000 a year and a half-percent increase in the sales tax, to 7.75 percent.
The taxes would expire at the end of 2016. Polls suggest that after five years of often brutal spending cuts, including $5 billion in this year’s budget, voters are inclined to pass those taxes.