It’s no Robin of Locksley, but a signature-gathering campaign for an initiative to take from the rich is steamrolling its way toward a spot on California’s November ballot.
The Millionaires’ Tax Initiative will permanently raise taxes on incomes of more than $1 million by 3 percent and an additional 2 percent on incomes more than $2 million.
“Twenty years ago millionaires were paying their fair share,” said Rudy Corral, a labor organizer for the Ventura County Federation of College Teachers AFT (American Federation of Teachers) Local 1828. AFT local 1828 is a labor union representing more than 1,400 faculty members of the Ventura County Community College District. While the state’s top 1 percent income earners have seen their share of total income double during the past two decades, Corral pointed out, their tax rate has decreased from 11 percent to 10.3 percent.
“This is a populist measure taking the pulse of the country that feels that Wall Street and millionaires should pay their fair share in this country,” said Corral.
Approximately $6 billion per year would be generated from the tax. Sixty percent would go toward early childhood through higher education, 25 percent to fund social services, 10 percent to public safety and 5 percent to roads and bridges.
Statewide, more than 250,000 signatures have been collected in about three weeks of campaigning; 500,000 valid signatures are required by April 15 to qualify for the November ballot.
In Ventura County, AFT Local 1828 has been spearheading the campaign.
“Everyone I’ve approached has been 100 percent for it,” said Ventura College professor Andrea Adlman, vice president of the Ventura County Federation of College Teachers AFT Local 1828 labor union.
But Adlman hasn’t approached Dick Thompson, president of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association. While the VCTA hasn’t officially taken a position on the initiative, Thompson recoiled at such a proposal. What the state needs to fix is its spending problem, he said. A millionaires’ tax, he added, is potentially a major job killer.
“We’re one of the most heavily taxed states and we’re nearly bankrupt,” said Thompson. “The people that are in a better financial position than others already pay more taxes than everyone else. All of these millionaire taxes do is encourage people to leave the state, and it encourages businesses to leave the state.”
Instead of creating a new tax to restore California’s diminishing public services and reverse the state’s devastating budget deficit, Thompson suggested that legislators and voters aim toward eliminating the millions of dollars earmarked for high-speed rail development, or reform the state’s troubled pension system, among other things.
“If you put higher taxes on people already paying the lion’s share of taxes, all you do is rob them of capital to invest in the economy,” Thompson added.
Adlman disagreed. “This is not penalizing them,” she said. “It’s going back to the way it was before and where it should remain.”
The California Federation of Teachers started the initiative. Groups like the California Nurses Association, CAUSE (Coastal Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), and Moveon.org have endorsed the initiative.
But with a number of tax-increase initiatives working toward the June and November ballots, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to temporarily increase sales tax by half a cent as well as tax rates on incomes more than $250,000, does the Millionaires’ Tax stand a chance of winning with voters?
“I feel there is more of us than them,” said Corral. “Millionaires only get one vote. That is what levels the playing field.”