Governor Brown's Tax Ju-Jitsu

The California political world is a twitter this week with news that Governor Brown , moving one step closer to clearing the November ballot of competing tax initiatives (Molly Munger though shows no sign of relenting).

It's an open question, however, that the new initiative will attract the Business support that the Governor wants -- and needs -- to get this campaign across the goal line.

Moreover, as Dan Walters notes, the new initiative would add significantly to California's tax volatility, which is decidedly bad policy in a state where revenue swings contributed heavily to a never ending budget crisis.

And then there's the question whether the new initiative will even qualify -- something that's never happened in such a condensed timeline in California.  

The inestimable Greg Lucas provides a terrific analysis of the procedures, mechanics, and other hurdles would need to overcome.

Allowing for a full 38 working days prior to the June 28 drop-dead date would require signature petitions to be submitted to counties no later than Monday May 7.

That would mean more than 1 million signatures would need to be collected in some 44 days, assuming the title and summary is completed by March 23.

That’s at least 22,727 signatures per day and over 159,000 signatures every seven days. 

Note that the Governor's original tax plan will still be gathering signatures, as a "Plan B" in the event that the new initiative can't qualify in this tough timeframe. 

Might the old initiative, the ostensible "Plan B", really be Plan A?  It would certainly require a new level of slimeyness for the governor to knowingly sink his own new initiative by not gathering enough signatures and lie to the California Federation of Teachers face.

The Governor, however, as many have said, is a gentlemen and would surely never consider such skullduggery.  Yet I'm reminded of the old adage about politicians' code of ethics: your word is your bond when cutting a deal with another politician, but feel free to be more "flexible" with the public.

But maybe, while we're thinking conspiratorially, CFT President Joshua Pechthalt is "in on it".  The prospect isn't as crazy as it sounds.  The CFT-Courage Campaign "Millionaire's tax had enthusiastic support from liberal and union activists, putting union leadership in an awkward position of pulling their measure, even if they wanted to.  And being aware of the political reality of the "circular firing squad", it's not improbable that they did.

A "new compromise initiative" that just so happens to fall short of the required signature threshold provides a convenient springboard for launching into the "Plan B" original initiative that the Governor is still collecting signatures for. 

Crazier things have been cooked up in the Capitol.