Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday defended his characterization that his tax initiative primarily helps schools, rejecting criticism from the backer of a rival tax proposal who says he is distorting the benefits.
Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger told The Associated Press last week that Brown is being untruthful by saying most of the money from his initiative will go to schools. She said she started running TV commercials about her initiative to "get the truth out."
As recently as last week, Brown told reporters "100 percent" of the taxes he's proposing would go to education.
Brown said Wednesday that he is telling the truth.
"The tax goes to schools. That's what it does," Brown told reporters after promoting his initiative to a gathering of law enforcement leaders. "We're dedicating the money to schools, it goes into a special account, and we're going to do everything we can to protect our universities, protect our schools, but also balance the budget."
His funding stream, however, is not as clear cut as Munger's.
Brown's proposed initiative would help cover the state's budget deficit, provide money for local law enforcement and prevent deeper cuts to education and other services. His proposal, unlike Munger's, also would dedicate money to help counties deal with lower-level offenders who are now being diverted to jails instead of state prisons.
His proposed 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.
Under California's voter-approved school funding guarantee, any increase to the state's general fund automatically provides more money for schools.
According to the state Department of Finance, Brown's initiative could bring in $9 billion in fiscal year 2012-2013, while the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office estimated that it would bring in about $6.8 billion in its first year. 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.
Munger's rival initiative, also proposed for the November ballot, would dedicate money to public schools by raising income taxes on every California taxpayer earning more than $7,300, though the wealthiest would see the largest increase. Her initiative is estimated to raise $10 billion to $12 billion annually for 12 years, with the money going directly to schools.
Brown also defended calling his proposal a "millionaires tax," though the income threshold would be $250,000.
"Anybody who makes $250,000 becomes a millionaire very quickly if you save it. You just need four years," Brown said. "It is a millionaires tax. It taxes millionaires, right? And it's for schools. And it protects public safety."