Behind the Merger: Effort's to Tax California's 1%

For the last 6 months, Oakland Rising as a part of the California Millionaires Tax Coalition, had been educating and mobilizing voters to support the Millionaire’s Tax. As many of you have probably heard by now, the Millionaires Tax and the Governor’s initiative have reached an agreement and merged efforts to qualify a new tax initiative for the November ballot. We’re now moving forward with the new effort, called the “Temporary Tax to Fund Education,” also known by supporters as the “1% Tax.”

What’s behind the merger? Is it a win or a loss?

As Anthony Thigpenn, the leader of our statewide coalition, California Calls, has said,
“The significance of the political victory we reached last week with the compromise measure cannot be overstated. For the first time, a non-Sacramento-based labor and community coalition primarily made up of grassroots groups was able to shift the balance of power and force a state policy change from the powers that be.”

That’s big news!

At Oakland Rising, we’ve been working diligently to create a new center of gravity where grassroots groups, communities of color and working people play an active role in policy formation and implementation. We’ve seen the difference we can make on a local level, and we are seeing that we can make the same kind of difference playing on the state level when we partner with other social justice and progressive forces. We’re excited for this opportunity to continue to shift the political center of gravity in California to the left.
The other big take away is the power of a unified movement for tax and fiscal policy reform. As we work towards our long-term goal of creating systemic change in California, we’ve got to remember the big picture so we can finally get out of this rut of budget cuts that hurts our families and communities year after year. Although we’d been trying to meet with the Governor since November, it wasn’t until we started moving forward aggressively with the Millionaires Tax by gathering thousands of signatures and released a poll showing 70% support that he started paying attention to us. Given that we have to play some major defense in the November election as rightwing groups try to undermine the political power of labor unions, we decided that ultimately it was more important to merge forces with the Governor’s plan than move forward with two tax initiatives that were quickly becoming divisive on the left.

What’s the new initiative about and what will it do?

The California Federation of Teachers, California Calls, ACCE and the Courage Campaign were joined by more than 80 grassroots and labor organizations (including Oakland Rising) across our state in supporting the Millionaires Tax. As members of this coalition, we are pleased by the merged initiative, which combines elements of both prior measures. Nobody got everything they wanted out of these discussions. That is the nature of compromise. However, we’re proud that on balance, this is a solidly progressive measure and a great improvement on the governor’s prior proposal.

The new initiative contains the following provisions:

1. Of the $9 billion raised in the first year, $8 billion will be achieved through a progressive income tax increase for individual Californians making more than $250,000 a year or households making more than $500,000 a year. No one making less than $250,000 will see an income tax increase.
2. The wealthiest 2% of Californians will pay more every year in higher income taxes than the governor’s initial proposal stipulated. This tax will stay in place for seven years, two more than the governor was proposing.
3. The new measure reduces the governor’s proposed sales tax increase from ½ cent to ¼ cent.
4. 85% of the revenue will be from the higher bracket income taxes, and only 15% will be from the ¼ cent sales tax.

Compared to the governor's original proposition this represents:
• a 50% decrease in the sales tax,
• an increase in the income tax on high incomes,
• and more money to restore cuts (around $2 billion more).

We must ensure the new measure passes. Without it the state would suffer billions of dollars more in cuts, leading to schools and hospitals closing, thousands of people losing their jobs, and millions losing opportunities and services. The new measure will prevent draconian cuts from occurring and will send a signal that the people of California want to fund education and vital services.

You can review the actual new merged proposition 

What’s next for this campaign?

Petitions are already on the streets, and we’re on a tight timeline to qualify the new measure. We have 6 weeks to qualify the 1% Tax and just 3 weeks for the volunteer signature drive. We need your help in collecting signatures in a significant way to qualify the measure.

We are hosting a signature gathering training this Saturday, April 7th from 10am – 12pm at our offices. We will train people on everything the need to know to successfully collect signatures, and provide the materials to make it happen. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to Jessamyn@OaklandRising.org 

Oakland Rising is also serving as the East Bay clearinghouse for petitions to qualify this measure. If your organization is interested in picking up materials, please email or call 510-261-2600 x103.

By Jessamyn Sabbag

 

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