Bloomberg News

California’s Brown Wins Tax Measure Ballot Order Fight

July 09, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown won a court ruling allowing his income tax initiative to be listed on the state’s November ballot above a rival measure sponsored by a group headed by civil rights attorney Molly Munger.

State court Judge Michael Kenny in Sacramento today rejected the suit by Munger’s group, Our Children, Our Future, that sought to derail legislation aimed at giving Brown’s initiative an upper hand at the polls.

California lawmakers included language in a June budget bill requiring bond measures and constitutional amendments to get top billing on statewide ballot pamphlets. That legislation, and Kenny’s ruling today, pushes Brown’s tax proposal above Munger’s, according to an e-mailed statement from Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Munger’s group.

“No matter where we end up on the ballot, the fact remains that our measure will reboot California’s public schools by sending $10 billion a year into a separate trust fund for education that can’t be touched by the governor or the Legislature,” Ballard said in the statement. He said Munger’s group won’t appeal today’s court ruling.

‘An Abuse’

Molly Munger, the daughter of Berkshire Hathaway (A:US) Inc. Vice Chairman Charles Munger, sued in June to block the ballot ordering provision, calling it “an abuse of the political process and legislative power.” The change pushed Brown’s tax proposal to the top of the pamphlet from ninth.

Brown, a Democrat, and a teachers’ union collected signatures asking voters in November to temporarily raise the state sales tax and income taxes on the wealthy to erase a $15.7 billion deficit and eliminate a recurring shortfall that has plagued the most populous U.S. state for the last decade. The revenue already is calculated into the fiscal 2013 budget. If voters say no, it would trigger a $5.5 billion cut from schools, the equivalent to three weeks off the academic year.

Brown said at a news conference today in Oakland that his measure is “so important that it deserves the dignity of being ranked with other constitutional measures and bond issues” on the ballot.

“We’re going forward and I think we’re on the right track,” he said. “Ultimately the people will choose.”

A bill passed this month removes an $11 billion water-bond proposition from the November ballot on concern that too many high-cost measures might jeopardize Brown’s proposed tax increase.

Joe Arellano, another spokesman for Munger’s group, said in an e-mail that the precise positioning of propositions won’t be known until Secretary of State Debra Bowen assigns ballot numbers and releases the order later this week.

Shannan Velayas, a spokeswoman for Bowen, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The case is Our Children, Our Future v. Bowen, 2012-80001194, California Superior Court (Sacramento).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net; Michael B. Marois in Sacramento at mmarois@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net; Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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