Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger said Friday that Gov. Jerry Brown is being untruthful in characterizing his tax plan as an education initiative and said she began running television commercials about her own initiative to "get the truth out."
Munger is pursuing a rival initiative for the November ballot seeking to raise taxes to fund public schools.
She told The Associated Press on Friday that the governor is being disingenuous when he said "100 percent" of the money from his tax hikes would go to schools.
Munger, the daughter of billionaire Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Vice Chairman Charles Munger, said it was important to her to "get the truth out" about her proposed tax initiative, "especially when the governor's out saying things like his is an education initiative, when it isn't."
She said the television ads that began airing this week in San Francisco and Los Angeles "start talking about `Our Children, Our Future' being real money that really goes to schools, money that you can count, that you can trace and enforce, and that you can be sure will get to every school and every child."
"It's important for us that voters know that," Munger said in a telephone interview, her first extensive remarks since Brown reached a compromise deal for a tax initiative with a state teachers union.
She has refused to bow to pressure to drop her "Our Children, Our Future" campaign, which would raise income taxes on nearly all taxpayers to fund schools.
Brown and proponents of what would have been a separate initiative seeking to raise income taxes on millionaires announced a compromise March 14, consolidating their ballot plans into one. Their new initiative would raise the state's sales tax by a quarter cent for five years and raise income taxes on a sliding scale for seven years on people who make more than $250,000 a year.
Brown's initiative could bring in between $6.8 billion and $9 billion in fiscal year 2012-2013.
The initiative would fill the state's budget deficit and dedicate money each year to local municipalities to pay for the realignment of services Brown has been orchestrating, especially his plan to send lower-level offenders to county jail instead of state prisons.
"The taxes I'm proposing -- the sales and the very high-income people -- goes to the schools, 100 percent of it. And it goes in a way that integrates it with the budget itself," Brown told reporters Tuesday, adding that his initiative is the only one that has broad support among voters.
Brown's political adviser, Steven Glazer, said the governor is "accurately describing what our measure does."
Under Proposition 98, the school funding guarantee voters approved in 1988, any increase to the state's general fund automatically provides more money for schools.
If Brown's tax plan brought in $9 billion in its first year, California's public schools would get an additional $2.7 billion next year, according to the governor's Department of Finance. The nonpartisan legislative analyst's office estimated that Brown's tax initiative would generate far less revenue, bringing in about $6.8 billion during its first year.
In response to the interview, Glazer also criticized Munger's initiative because it would raise income taxes on nearly every California taxpayer.
"I didn't notice anywhere in her ad did she explain that she's taxing people starting at earnings of $7,300 a year," he said.
Munger's initiative would raise income taxes on nearly all wage-earners, with the wealthiest seeing the greatest boost. It is estimated to raise $10 billion to $12 billion annually for 12 years. That money would flow directly to public schools, and lawmakers would have no control over it.
Thirty percent of the money would pay down state school bond debt for the first four years, which also would relieve a fraction of the state's budget deficit.
The tax increases would range from 0.4 percent on income above $7,300 after deductions, to 2.2 percent for people who make more than $2.5 million a year after deductions.
Democrats and their union allies, including the state's two largest teachers unions, are coalescing around the governor's proposal. Some have urged Munger to drop the signature-gathering effort that is required for petitions to be certified for an election.
But Munger said she and her husband, attorney Steven English, are willing to bankroll the entire campaign through the November election.
A day after Brown and the California Federation of Teachers announced their compromise, Munger contributed $1.5 million to her initiative effort, bringing her total contributions to $3.4 million.
Munger is a longtime civil rights attorney and co-founder of the Advancement Project, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., that was established to promote racial equality.
She said she would not have predicted that she would find herself being cast as a foil to the governor and Democrats, with whom she has typically been allied.
"You sort of hope that the Democrats are the party that stand up for investment in children and in education. Those are two bedrock principles of the Democratic Party," she said. "It is a little bit ironic that so many elements of the Democratic Party are, you know, supporting an initiative that does not invest in the main engine we have for social mobility and opportunity in our society, which is our K-12 schools."
John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, said he has never spoken with Munger and no one affiliated with her campaign approached him about her plans. He said the party has not taken a position on her initiative.
"She shouldn't be surprised, because I don't know who she talked to that then all of a sudden she expects they'll support it," Burton said. "Maybe there is something flawed with her initiative, because the teachers themselves don't support the initiative."
Munger said she still believes her approach is the best one for schools. She said she reached out to the governor's office last fall to discuss the initiatives.
"Certainly, we think there was an opportunity for compromise and were in touch with the governor's office in the fall seeking to be sure that we were having a dialogue," she said. "It simply was not to be. The governor made a different decision about what to do and the talks just ended quite abruptly."