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Brown Now "Open" To New Taxes Without Voter Approval

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Gov. Jerry Brown announces a California budget deal at the state Capitol on Tuesday, June 16th, 2015.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown says he’s changed his position on taxes now that he’s been elected to another term. He says he’s open to new taxes that would fund road maintenance and health coverage for low-income Californians.

It was a core promise of his 2010 campaign, repeated in TV ads, debates and campaign events: No new taxes without voter approval.

 

But this week, Jerry Brown called two special legislative sessions as part of the state budget deal – one on transportation, the other on Medi-Cal – and he says both could lead to tax increases on products from gasoline to tobacco.

The governor reminded reporters Tuesday that the state faced a budget crisis during the 2010 campaign.

"I ran for office when this state had a $27 billion deficit, and I said I wasn’t going to raise taxes unless the people said that’s what they wanted through an initiative," he said. "And I kept my promise. When I ran the second time, I didn’t say that – and you didn’t ask me. So we’ll have to leave that as an open question."

But that logic is backwards to Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff.

"Back when he was making that promise, we were still emerging out of the worst recession we’ve had since the Great Depression," Huff said Thursday. "And so to raise revenues then, you could make the argument it’d be easier to raise revenues and taxes in that situation when you just had to stem the hemorrhaging. Well, here we are at $14 billion unanticipated revenue this year. We’re awash in money. We’re paying down debt. We’re doing other stuff for funding new programs. And yet they want to go back to the till and raise taxes without asking people about it?”

Huff said any special session tax proposals should go to the voters.

The governor’s office said Brown remains opposed to extending Proposition 30, the temporary tax measure voters passed in 2012.

As for any taxes that emerge from the special sessions?

“We’ll have to look at those,” Brown said Tuesday.