SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown made a personal appeal Thursday for California voters to support his tax-hike initiative, saying their support is crucial because the state's finances have been "screwed up" for a decade.
The Democratic governor submitted a batch of signature petitions in Sacramento, as the campaign announced it had gathered 1.5 million signatures. The initiative needs about 807,000 valid signatures to qualify.
"For more than a decade, the budget has been screwed up, an incredible mess bringing down our credit rating, causing a lot of anxiety and uncertainty," Brown said outside the Sacramento County registrar's office. "This has taken a long time to mess up, and we are going to undo it and fix it over a period of years."
The development came just days after a group funded by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger turned in its petitions for a separate tax initiative.
"Come on in, the water's fine," said Nathan Ballard, strategist for the "Our Children, Our Future" campaign. "There are differing visions for improving schools in California on the ballot this November. We think voters are smart enough and mature enough to know which one or which ones to vote for."
During his appearance, Brown said he is focused on doing his job of balancing the budget and protecting schools and public safety. He was accompanied by his wife, Anne Gust Brown, and his dog Sutter.
"I need to get this initiative passed, so that's my focus," he said. "And all the other people that are involved in other things, God bless them, but I've got my job."
According to campaign finance figures, Brown's initiative campaign has raised more than $5 million while a second account has raised $8.8 million, mainly from labor groups such as the California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union, and Service Employees International Union, which represents state workers.
Munger has self-financed the "Our Children, Our Future" initiative and contributed more than $8.3 million so far. Ballard said internal polls show voters prefer her initiative after hearing arguments about both proposals.
Munger's initiative would raise income taxes on nearly all wage earners, with the wealthiest seeing the greatest boost. It would raise an estimated $10 billion to $12 billion annually for 12 years, with the money flowing directly to public schools,. Lawmakers would have no control over the funds.
Under Brown's initiative, California would temporarily raise the sales tax by a quarter-cent and increase the income tax on people who make $250,000 or more. Brown is projecting his tax initiative would raise as much as $9 billion but a review by the nonpartisan analyst's office estimates revenue of $6.8 billion in fiscal year 2012-13.
It's unclear what would happen if both initiatives were approved by voters. The issue would likely be decided in the courts.
"The governor's solves mostly the state problem but not enough of the school problem," said Kevin Gordon, a budget adviser to school districts. "And Molly's solves overwhelmingly the school problem and only a little bit of the state problem."
The governor is expected to update the state budget deficit Monday and propose additional reductions on top of billions of dollars that already have been cut from schools, colleges, health care and social services in recent years.
The state shortfall was pegged in January at $9.2 billion, or about 10 percent of the general fund. But a disappointing tax season has brought in $3.5 billion less than expected so far this fiscal year.
The governor said last month the gap has widened as lawsuits blocked the state from making cuts. In addition, Democratic lawmakers who control the Legislature have resisted additional cuts this year to health and social service programs.
"I'm making some very severe cuts and we're reorganizing," Brown said.