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Sales-tax hike to appear on California ballot?

December 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Governor Jerry Brown gets ready to ask the voters for help in solving California's long-term budget crisis. His plan may include a hike in the sales tax.

Holiday shoppers have been enjoying a lower sales tax this season. It went down 1 percent in July as a temporary two-year increase expired.

But the days of a lower sales tax may be numbered because of California's lingering budget problems.

Labor union sources say Governor Brown is readying a $7-billion tax initiative to take to voters next year.

Though details are still being hammered out, discussions include a 1- to 2-percent income tax hike on high wage earners who make at least $250,000, and a half-cent sales tax increase. Both items will expire in 2016.

Governor Jerry Brown didn't want to talk about his tax plan after defending his pension reform package before a Legislative committee.

"Today is pension day. We have a serious problem with pensions and we're fixing them," said Brown.

The California Federation of Teachers union, though, has been involved in closed door meetings with the governor's staff.

The union disagrees with the sales-tax hike because it hurts the working and middle classes, but supports targeting wealthier Californians to stop further budget cuts.

"It's time that the people who have been benefitting the most make sure that seniors have adequate care, that third-graders have adequate education," said Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers.

Republicans think it'll be tough to sell more taxes to voters when state government is perceived as still being bloated.

"What's the answer? More taxes. More taxes. Which will support what? More spending. More spending," said Assembly Budget Committee Vice-Chairman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber).

Another challenge Brown may face is other tax proposals that may be on the same ballot. Voters may reject them all because they're confused or frustrated.

One thing going for the governor is momentum: The majority of local tax hikes passed in last month's elections.

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