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The third installment of community/labor group A Better San Diego’s monthly breakfast forums was held this morning, with the focus of the event a discussion on the different tax proposals currently gathering signatures for the upcoming November ballot.

The meeting was more sparsely attended than others, drawing a crowd of 50-60 community members. Lower attendance was attributed to some confusion regarding a recent announcement that Governor Jerry Brown would team up with the California Federation of Teachers, combining rival proposals for a sales tax hike and a so-called “Millionaire’s Tax.”

Kim Pattillo Brownson, Director of Education Equity for the Advancement Project, spoke in favor of another plan backed by Pasadena activist and civil-rights attorney Molly Munger.

Under the “Our Children, Our Future” plan, personal income taxes would rise for Californians across the board, with the lion’s share of increases being levied on the state’s wealthier residents.

It’s expected to raise up to $10 billion in its first year, with 30% of the funding going into the general fund to pay school debts for the first four years. Remaining money would be earmarked for education.

Pattillo Brownson justified the need for increased education funding by saying that the state ranks 47th nationally in per-pupil spending, with the largest class sizes and largest ratio of students to staff members such as counselors, librarians, and nurses.

“We have seen a massive disinvestment in public schools,” said Pattillo Brownson. “It is unacceptable to have elementary students in, basically, warehouse conditions.”

She continued to say that there would be no state mandate on how funds were to be spent – they would be sent to school districts based on student population, with spending decisions made locally by school boards.

David Kieffer, the Executive Director of SEIU California, was originally scheduled to speak on Governor Brown’s proposal, but instead presented the hybrid plan proposed to replace it two days ago.

Josh Pechthalt, President of the California Federation of Teachers, was invited to talk on the Millionaire's Tax Proposal but chose not to attend given the likelihood that his initiative would be rolled into the Brown plan.

Kieffer began his presentation by attacking the idea of earmarking new revenue to address only one issue affecting the state budget crisis, saying that the state legislature was already handicapped by past measures that “run our state by ballot box.”

“Sacramento is broken because we keep breaking it,” Kieffer said.

Under the hybrid tax plan, Brown’s proposed sales tax increase would be reduced from one-half cent to a quarter cent, expected to raise $1 billion in annual revenue.

Another $8 billion would be raised by increasing the personal income tax on individuals making over $250,000 or couples making $500,000 or more by one percent, increasing taxes by two percent on those making $300,000 or $600,000, and three percent on incomes over $500,000 individually or $1 million as a couple.

“Eight billion dollars is raised by taxing the one percent. If we get a deal like that in life, we should take it,” said Kieffer, acknowledging that while a sales tax, which regressively impacts the poor more than the rich, is not ideal, the bulk of funds would be in the form of a progressive tax. “It’s probably the most progressive tax that we’ve seen in the state of California, bar none,” he added.

During a question-and-answer session following the presentations, the issue came up that many have suggested that multiple pushes for increased taxes might cause overwhelmed voters to reject all of them. This argument has been used in an attempt to push Munger’s group to withdraw their proposal.

“It is not by any stretch of the imagination a foregone conclusion that everything loses,” Pattillo Brownson responded to the suggestion. “It’s an opportunity to have a real and robust conversation about what California’s values are,” she continued.

Pattillo Brownson further suggested that since approval levels for the state legislature have chronically languished well below 50 percent that “Our Children, Our Future,” which places spending responsibility in the hands of local officials rather than adding to the state’s general fund, might be more palatable to voters.

State Senator Christine Kehoe also spoke in favor of the hybrid proposal and against the Munger plan. “The child just doesn’t go to school. The child has to have, if they come from a poor family, Healthy Families coverage, [parents] might need job training, CalWorks may kick in. You can’t just fund education, you have to fund services for the whole child and whole family,” she said, noting that health and human services budgets have been under the axe to a degree even greater than education during recent budget cuts.

“Let’s not piss away this opportunity. We could really change things for five to seven years,” concluded Kehoe.

Labor leader and event emcee Lorena Gonzalez announced that A Better San Diego would plan another forum in the coming weeks as more details became available concerning the new combined plan from Brown and the California Federation of Teachers.

Pictured: David Kieffer

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Comments

Visduh March 16, 2012 @ 8:34 p.m.

Raise taxes and they'll change things all right. More taxpayers will flee the state, leaving more needy folks and nobody to pay for all the help and services they need. Notice that none of those tax proposals involve any lowering of taxes? Of course not: the state needs more and more money to meet all its promises and cannot raise the funds the way it once could. Every tax rate boost makes this state look worse for employers, or the high income crowd, and even its own retirees. They're moving to Las Vegas, and when there pay no California taxes at all. Go ahead guys, tax yourself into a hole that is too deep to ever dig out of, no matter what you do.

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InOmbra March 18, 2012 @ 4:57 p.m.

Only rabid anti-tax people would move to Las Vegas to dodge a needed and overdue taxation revision. A lot of such people think they are in upper income groups, but they are not. They are a little clueless. Arizona and Nevada can have them.

We desperately need more revenues for education and infrastructure.

Kehoe, no matter what stand she takes, is an empty suit: she is one of the longstanding champions of special assessments, which, if imposed and collected, are grossly wasted on business-friendly junk. A record of support for real taxes for real services and needs is not in Kehoe's resume.

Where is the discussion of Prop 13 revision, to make commercial property owners pay fairly?

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mcdez March 24, 2012 @ 8:54 p.m.

The PTA/Molly Munger initiative is by far the best one for education. $20 billion cut from schools over the last four years, money diverted, money deferred. Enough is enough. Who is going to sustain income taxes and help our state function if we have an uneducated and under educated work force? We will remain in our deficit hole as long as funding for education lags. CA has the largest student to teacher, student to administrator and student to counselor ratio in the COUNTRY. We would need to increase funding to each and every classroom in CA by $60,000 a year just to CATCH UP to the national AVERAGE.

The "Our Children Our Future" initiative calls for a broad based income tax on all but the poorest. A median income of $55,000 would be taxed $250 -- you probably spend that on cookie dough, wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions and whatever else the schools are asking their students to peddle these days just to provide the basics.

The money will be over and above any Prop 98 minimum and DOES NOT PASS THROUGH SACRAMENTO. It instead goes directly to school districts -- early childhood programs, preschool and K-12, with strict accountability. It cannot be used to raise current teacher salaries, but can be used to hire new teachers to help reduce class sizes.

PTA has been advocating for kids - for free -- for 115 years. My vote goes with them and the kids. http://www.ourchildrenourfuture2012.com/

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