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Millionaires Tax Supporters Grapple with Withdrawal of Major Backers
by Jonathan Nack
Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM
“We need to continue to back this initiative [the Millionaires Tax]. We need to continue to fight for it. We need to continue to fight for the working class," said Ivonne, of Occupy San Francisco State University
Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack

Millionaires Tax Supporters Grapple with Withdrawal of Major Backers

by Jonathan Nack
March 27, 2012

OAKLAND, CA – Supporters of a ballot proposition that would bring a Millionaires Tax to California are grappling with the withdrawal of crucial support by major backers that have made a deal with Governor Jerry Brown (D).

Under an agreement reached with Gov. Brown, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and other groups in the Restoring California Coalition, will withdraw their support for the Millionaires Tax. Instead, they will join with the Governor in supporting a compromise tax proposition.

Despite a recent poll which showed the Millionaires Tax outperforming a tax proposal by Gov. Brown, [ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2012/03/11/BAAV1NIOMH.DTL ] the compromise is a modification of the Governor's proposal, not the other way around. It does raise the amount of income tax increases on upper income groups, while halving the sales tax increase, from what the Governor had in his initial ballot proposition.

Occupy Education California, which has been actively supporting the Millionaire's Tax campaign, held a press conference on March 20, to publicize it's rejection of the compromise reached by the other groups, and its decision to press forward with Millionaire Tax signature gathering.

In a press release, dated March 17, 2012, Occupy Education California declared, “[t]he Millionaires Tax remains the only proposal that would take steps to permanently fund public education and services — and it would do this without regressive sales taxes. We reject the notion of “shared sacrifice” — we have already sacrificed more than our share. The 99% should not be asked to pay for the crisis caused by the 1%. “ [ http://occupyeducationca.org/wordpress/?p=704 ]

At the press conference, held in front of the State Building in downtown Oakland, a range of reactions were represented.

Among the speakers, student activists spoke out the most passionately against the compromise reached with the Governor. “It's disgusting that the working class is being asked to pay more when we don't have any more to give. I know I don't. I know my mom doesn't – she works two jobs,” said Ivonne, of Occupy San Francisco State University, in criticism of the sales tax increase included in the compromise.

“We need to continue to back this initiative [the Millionaires Tax]. We need to continue to fight for it. We need to continue to fight for the working class. We need to continue to fight for education,” concluded Ivonne.

“This compromise with the Democrats is another betrayal,” said Honest Chung, an undergrad at U. C. Berkeley. “Within the past ten years, U. C. tuition has risen 300 percent. This policy has been pushed by Republicans and Democrats. This pattern makes one thing clear. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are our friends, nor allies, for public education and public services,” said Chung. He emphasized the need for more protests by students, as well as a greater level of student organization.

Dr. Henry Clarke, of the West County Toxics Coalition, said, “when I heard about this so-called compromise, I immediately got ready to come here today.” Clarke recounted how the City Council of Richmond, where he lives, recently voted to support for the Millionaires Tax, and that excitement about it was building.

“We need to tax the rich and corporations and we need to rip this whole system out of the hands of the rich and put it in the hands of the people,” said Clarke.

While all of the speakers at the March 20 press conference were critical of the compromise, a number of speakers emphasized that they don't blame the CFT and the other groups for having reached it.

“I'm proud of the CFT and the stand it took, and of my union leadership for the courage they showed in taking this stand, and being the last one standing on the Millionaires Tax,” said Peter Brown, who teaches at Laney Community College and is a member of the Peralta Federation of Teachers, and affiliate of the CFT. “While I will be very disappointed and angry if this is dropped, nothing can take away my feelings about my union and my leadership,” said Brown.

“The Millionaire Tax's great sin is that it puts class, wealth and privilege up for discussion...That is why there is such pressure to get this little initiative off the ballot and out of our heads,” concluded Brown.

“The CFT was beaten into submission - don't blame the CFT, and don't blame the organizations that stayed with it, including the UAW and ILWU, and a bunch of others, that were at least supporting it,“ said Steve Gilbert, a retired BART mechanic, who said he'd been working fifty hours a week for the past year and a half pursuing an initiative to tax the rich, which became the Millionaires Tax.

Gilbert recounted how Governor Brown put tremendous pressure on unions to support his measure over the Millionaires Tax. How Brown first succeeded in winning the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Teachers Association (CTA) over to support his proposal, and how those two unions, which are the two largest unions of state employees, “took a position against the interests of not only their own membership, but of the working people in California.”

“CNA [the California Nurses Association] endorsed us, and then as soon as the Governor called them up, they said they wouldn't fund it,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert did criticize the CFT and it's allies, because “the idea of building a grassroots movement was not a central theme...In labor circles there isn't much confidence that they can build a grassroots movement...” explained Gilbert.

In assessing the Millionaires Tax campaign, Gilbert said, “Brown had to make some concessions... Is that enough? Does that solve our problems? Not really, because, what was at the heart and soul of the Millionaires Tax was an opportunity for us to organize a grassroots movement and to have a real fight.

Could we have pushed forward with this? Yes, with funding we could have – we didn't have the funding. As a volunteer effort we were able to do significant work and make progress, but not enough,” concluded Gilbert.

Virtually no one familiar with California's initiative process thinks the Millionaires Tax can still make it on to the ballot unless new sources of funding to pay for signature gathering emerge quickly. It has an estimated 300,000 of the 800,000 signatures needed to qualify on the ballot, and the great majority of those signatures were acquired by paid signature gatherers. Nevertheless, some supporters, like Occupy Education, refuse to give up.

Alan Benjamin, from the Office and Professional Employees Local 3, a delegate to the S. F. Labor Council AFL-CIO, said, “here we had an opportunity to build a fighting coalition that said we don't have to go along with the deals made by politicians and the union leaders who bend to them. We gave hope to so many young people. I'm ashamed, because our unions threw in the towel step by step, under pressure from the Governor.” Benjamin joined in defending the CFT for its role in initiating the Millionaires Tax, focusing his criticism on the rest of the labor movement that failed to unite in support of it.

Bill Balderston, of the Oakland Education Association, in analyzing the compromise said, “the question is business as usual or a totally different vision of what we want for this state, this county, and this world. What this compromise is about is linking the effort to increase revenues to this Governor's austerity budget and linking it to a neo-liberal program.” Balderston pointed out that the compromise that both of the state's teachers unions are now committed to, includes huge budget cuts to education, particularly higher education.

A press release issued by the CFT lauded the compromise as resulting in, “...a new unified progressive tax initiative.” [ http://www.cft.org/cft-stories/824-cft-restoring-california-coalition-join-with-governor-in-unified-ballot-measure.html ]

“The values and principles of fair, progressive tax policy are clearly reflected in this joint initiative.  The new measure will bring in more money for schools and services, and a greater contribution from the wealthiest Californians.  It boosts the proposal for the top income tax to a 3% contribution from taxpayers making more than a million dollars.  It reduces the governor’s proposed half-cent sales tax to a quarter cent, and thus reduces the burden on working families,” according to Joshua Pechthalt, President of the CFT and Co-Chair of the Millionaire Tax campaign.

The compromise the CFT and the other groups reached with Gov. Brown has sparked debate on the left and in the alternative press. Paul Hogarth, Managing Editor of the web site Beyond Chron wrote of the compromise, “While less progressive than the Millionaires Tax, it is a vast improvement over what the Governor had proposed and will raise more revenue for the state.”

Hogarth laments that, “[g]iven how popular the Millionaires Tax was polling, and given the broad coalition supporting it from the Courage Campaign, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Nurses Association and ACCE, it is incredible that Democratic leaders, rather than get behind and support the measure, spent months urging their progressive base to drop it. But sadly, this was nothing new.”

Hogarth concludes that, “[a]t the end of the day, “the compromise was something progressive backers of the Millionaires Tax can be proud of. Jerry Brown's initial measure would have put 40% of the tax burden on a sales tax increase. This new compromise puts 85% of the new tax burden on incomes making over $250,000 and $500,000. Consider that California's income tax code currently makes no difference between anyone making $50,000 and $900,000 a year; and you start to understand why this compromise is both good policy, and very good politics to bring our forces together.” [ http://quartz.he.net/~beyondch/news/nucleus/plugins/print/print.php?itemid=9983 ]

An article published by Counterpunch by Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer takes a critical view of the compromise. Robertson and Leumer write that, “many supporters of the Millionaires Tax are not simply focused on the money to save their own position; they are intent on creating a movement. And people will hardly want to join a movement led by teachers who pursue raising money for schools with a sales tax that includes in its scope taking money from the poorest people in the state. Teachers do not inspire when they support self-serving proposals that divide rather than unite working people. Moreover, the argument that the “compromise” proposal is progressive since it takes more from the rich than the poor fails to take into consideration the surrounding context where inequalities in wealth have been soaring. Although the measure might take a higher percentage from the rich than the poor, the rich have so much money to spare they won’t feel the bite. The poor already don’t have enough money, and this will leave them with even less.” [ http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/21/the-unions-the-millionaires-tax-and-the-road-to-success/ ]

Whether or not the compromise made by the CFT, and the other groups, with the Governor is viewed as worth it, there is no doubt that it means that the Millionaires Tax is now a real long shot to qualify for the California ballot this November.
§Honest Chung, UC Berkeley undergraduate
by Jonathan Nack Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM

“This compromise with the Democrats is another betrayal,” said Honest Chung
Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack
§Dr. Henry Clarke, West County Toxics Coalition
by Jonathan Nack Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM

“We need to tax the rich and corporations and we need to rip this whole system out of the hands of the rich and put it in the hands of the people,” said Clarke.
Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack
§Peter Brown, teacher, Laney Community College
by Jonathan Nack Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM

“The Millionaire Tax's great sin is that it puts class, wealth and privilege up for discussion...That is why there is such pressure to get this little initiative off the ballot and out of our heads,” concluded Brown.
Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack
§Steve Gilbert, retired BART Mechanic
by Jonathan Nack Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM

"Don't blame the CFT, and don't blame the organizations that stayed with it, including the UAW and ILWU, and a bunch of others, that were at least supporting it,“ said Steve Gilbert.
Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack
§Alan Benjamin, delegate to the S. F. Central Labor Council
by Jonathan Nack Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM

"I'm ashamed, because our unions threw in the towel step by step, under pressure from the Governor,” said Alan Benjamin.
Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack
§Bill Balderston, OEA
by Jonathan Nack Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM

"The question is business as usual or a totally different vision of what we want for this state, this county, and this world," said Bill Balderston.
Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack
§Signature gathering for the Millionaires Tax at press conference
by Jonathan Nack Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 2:05 AM

Press conference on Millionaires Tax called by Occupy Education California
In front of State Building, downtown Oakland, CA
March 20, 2012
Photo: Jonathan Nack

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Jonathan Nack
Tuesday Mar 27th, 2012 11:42 AM
*Below is a statement using the name of the Millionaires Tax Campaign. It is more accurately described as a statement in support of the compromise tax ballot initiative agreed to by key organizations and Governor Brown. These groups used to comprise the backbone of the Millionaires Tax proposition initiative, and had provided most of the funding for it, but are now using the name of the Millionaires Tax Campaign to support the compromise.

Statement from the Millionaires Tax Campaign

As has been reported by the news media, one week ago the Millionaires Tax

Coalition came to a negotiated agreement with Governor Brown, Senate

President Pro-tem Steinberg, Speaker Pérez, and their allies by setting aside

our separate ballot measures and joining forces on a new initiative to raise

needed revenue for California public education and social services.

This agreement represents a major victory for the thousands of Californians

who have risen up over recent months to demand that the wealthiest

Californians start paying their fair share, that low and middle-income

families still reeling from the Great Recession be spared undue burdens, and

that our state raise sufficient, reliable revenue to restore cuts to education

and vital services.

The California Federation of Teachers, California Calls, ACCE and the

Courage Campaign were joined by more than 80 grassroots and labor

organizations across our state in supporting the Millionaire Tax. As the

leaders of this coalition, we are pleased by the merged initiative, which

combines elements of both prior measures. Nobody got everything they

wanted out of these discussions. That is the nature of compromise. However,

were proud that on balance, this is a solidly progressive measure and a great

improvement on the governors prior proposal.

The new initiative contains the following provisions:

1. Of the $9 billion raised in the first year, $8 billion will be achieved

through a progressive income tax increase for individual Californians

making more than $250,000 a year or households making more than

$500,000 a year. No one making less than $250,000 will see an

income tax increase.

2. The wealthiest 2% of Californians will pay more every year in higher

income taxes than the governors initial proposal stipulated. This tax

will stay in place for seven years, two more than the governor was

proposing.

3. The new measure reduces the governors proposed sales tax increase

from ½ cent to ¼ cent.

4. 85% of the revenue will be from the higher bracket income taxes, and

only 15% will be from the ¼ cent sales tax.

Compared to the governor's original proposition this represents:

a 50% decrease in the sales tax,

an increase in the income tax on high incomes,

and more money to restore cuts (around $2 billion more).

We must ensure the new measure passes. Without it the state would suffer

billions of dollars more in cuts, leading to schools and hospitals closing,

thousands of people losing their jobs, and millions losing opportunities and

services. The new measure will prevent draconian cuts from occurring and

will send a signal that the people of California want to fund education and

vital services.

In the new merged initiative we lost the clean message that it is time for the

top income earners to pay their fair share. But we kept that tenet by making

the top 1% pay a vast majority of this new revenue, and millionaires will still

pay 3% more on their income. We must all unite behind this very

progressive and important initiative to secure the message and secure the

funding for public schools, local safety and vital services of California.

A unified front behind this new proposal -- and the resources this unity

provides -- significantly increases the chance for passage of a ballot measure

that would raise revenue to allow reinvestment in California, rather than the

continuing downward spiral of devastating cuts that have become all too

common in our state.

The credit for this compromise goes to our tireless volunteers and coalition

members whose donations and hard work staging press conferences, rallying

at the Democratic Party convention, securing local endorsements and

gathering signatures for the Millionaires Tax (more than 400,000 paid and

volunteer signatures were collected) created our ability to work with the

governor on a unified effort. Because of them, Governor Brown recognized

the policy and political improvements necessary to craft a fairer and more

progressive initiative that would more successfully address our state's

problems and more likely secure the confidence of California's voters.

We are very proud of what our coalition has achieved. Together we have

engaged a movement to raise more revenue in our state. We have

dramatically moved the powers-that-be to create a substantially more

progressive tax measure. We have focused attention on the need to re-fund

education in this state. And we won't stop until we finish the job. We will be

working hard to pass the compromise measure and working just as hard to

make sure that that cuts to vital services and public education - both K-12

and higher education - are restored.

Restoring California is a broad coalition of educators, unions and community groups looking to

restore critical funding to schools and universities, essential services for children, seniors, and public

safety, as well as start rebuilding the states crumbling roads and bridges. It asks the wealthiest

Californians ­ people who earn over a million dollars per year ­ to pay their fair share to help

rebuild the state. For more info,

http://www.millionairestaxca.com
by repost
Wednesday Mar 28th, 2012 10:09 AM
Labor on the Millionaires Tax
By Harry Brill
Friday March 23, 2012 - 12:53:00 PM
The Berkeley Daily Planet

Many of us are traumatized by the decision by labor to abandon the Millionaires Tax. Let us consider just how this came about. First, The two largest unions in California, SEIU with 700,000 members and CTA with 325,000 immediately jumped on the Brown bandwagon. And even the California Nurses Association (CNA), which rhetorically supported the millionaires tax refused to donate even one penny to the campaign, and its leadership did absolutely nothing to galvanize a signature campaign. Many other unions and labor councils throughout California gave it only luke warm support.

Even the CFT attempted as early as November 2011 to negotiate a compromise with the Governor, but he refused. There were other attempts in which State Senate leaders became involved with the cooperation of the CFT, but he still refused. Later on he changed his mind because every poll showed the Millionaires Tax was the most popular. So negotiating for a modified proposal with the Governor was from the very beginning always the position of CFT. The historical record shows that CFT's recent decision to work with the governor because it lacked sufficient fund to continue is clearly bogus.

Frankly, what we learned from this experience is that the strong ties of labor to the Democratic Party sabotaged what could have been an effective campaign on the millionaires tax. Those ties developed during the 1930s depression, and it was, then, a very good thing. But to a considerable extent the current mainstream leaders of the Party have moved from a New Deal ideology to Raw Deal politics for working people. Labor should be acting independently while still working to elect New Deal Democrats.

The proposed tax on millionaires would not have made things fair, but fairer. They would still be under-taxed. Had we won that tax it would not have affected their standard of living one iota. Also, this tax aside from equity issues is neither good for small business nor the economy because to some extent it further discourages spending.

What lessons should we learn from this experience? The Labor Movement must find a way to maintain independence from the Democratic Party while supporting progressive candidates who represent the best interests of the 99 percent. It must distance itself from those Democrats, including Governor Brown, who mainly represent corporate interests and the one percent! And wherever and whenever possible, we should do what we can, perhaps by aligning with dissatisfied members of some of these unions, to persuade the organized labor leadership to better represent the interests of their members and working people generally.