Brown Key to 2016 Tax Measures

With the 2014 election finally over, attention is turned to possible tax measures on the 2016 ballot. I previously wrote about groups looking to raise taxes on commercial property, oil extraction, cigarettes, and extending or making permanent the income tax piece of Proposition 30. Marc Lifsher covered similar ground in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend. The Public Policy Institute of California released a poll last night that asked voters about some of the possible tax increases they could face on the ballot.

The key to which major tax measures will advance to the ballot very well could be Governor Jerry Brown.

It may not seem unusual for proponents of tax increase proposals to want a popular, re-elected governor to support their agenda. However, the key to getting Brown on board is not so much for his endorsement but for his influence with certain powerful political players.

During the Proposition 30 campaign, Brown was effective in neutralizing opposition from the business community. While some business leaders grumbled about the tax, and the board of the state Chamber of Commerce had extensive debate over whether to oppose the measure, in the end the business community, particularly big business, generally withheld opposition to Prop 30.

Supporters of proposed tax ballot measures would like to see the same script in 2016.

In the most recent election season, the governor emphasized the Proposition 30 taxes were temporary. He also warned against taking on Proposition 13 and its property tax protections. While Prop 13 was not tested in the new PPIC poll, Prop 30 extension received support from 52% of likely voters while 43% opposed.

Pro-tax advocates will have to convince the governor they have a winning measure. Then they will push the governor to use his influence with the business community to hold fire on whichever measure – or measures – moves forward. This is particularly true with the major tax issues, less so with so called sin taxes on proscribed goods or services such as the tax on cigarettes.

There is also the issue of a major overhaul of the tax system that has support from some reformers. More on this tomorrow.

Any group considering pushing a tax increase in 2016 will have to consider how the governor plans to use his influence on the issue.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily