Ms. Munger’s Motives

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Even though I don’t agree with Molly Munger’s tax increase proposal, I want to stand up for her jumping into the initiative realm. Those that don’t know her seemed puzzled by her presence as exemplified by recent reports.

Last week, Calbuzz ran a piece arguing that Governor Brown has to take control of all the tax initiatives floating around and make sure his is the only one on the ballot if there is any hope that a tax measure passes.

In the piece, Calbuzz sought opinions from political consultants who gave their thoughts on the politics of the tax initiative landscape.

One Republican consultant suggested, in part, that, … the Think Long (aka Think Again or Think Wrong) ideas need to be scuttled. As well as the effort of Ms. Munger, whose motives are a mystery other than sibling rivalry.

The unnamed consultant and I are on the same page as to the likely outcome of all those tax measures being on the same ballot – they would probably doom the governor’s tax initiative. However, while Munger may have been inspired by her brother Charles’s success in qualifying and helping to pass the congressional redistricting proposition, her goal is not to engage in a competition with her brother.

I understand how the wrong impression can be made. Munger’s past efforts have largely gone unnoticed in the Sacramento inner circles. On John Myers end of the week KQED podcast last Friday, one of the commentators discussing the ballot initiatives said they never heard of Molly Munger until last week.

I’ve known Molly Munger for years and she is sincere in here goal of achieving education equality. The Los Angeles civil rights attorney was part of a lawsuit that changed the funding distribution for state bond money for school construction as well as working on Los Angeles school funding issues. However, it has never been her intent to jump in front of a crusade for attention or because of sibling rivalry.

As she very well knows I don’t agree with her approach and oppose her tax initiative for a number of reasons. A $10-billion income tax increase on most taxpayers will do damage to the struggling economy – not to mention what it will do to the taxpayers themselves and to the small businesses that file their taxes through the owners’ personal income tax.

However, I understand her goal of getting more revenue into the classroom. I would do it differently, of course. When I worked for Richard Riordan’s short-lived campaign for governor we developed a plan called “Classroom First Budgeting.” Our intent was to get more money into the classroom from the currently collected school revenue. Studies showed only about sixty-percent of the school dollars found their way into the classroom at the time.

Munger is taking the tack of raising revenue to get more dollars to the classroom. In the end, that approach not only will hurt the recessed economy but also would mean the schools would come to rely on whatever dollars the tax increase brings in. (I think the dynamic effect of the tax plan would not produce the expected dollars.) Her plan calls for the tax to sunset in 12 years unless re-approved by voters.  Either there will be a big effort to keep the tax alive after a dozen years or the schools will have to adjust to a major funding hit.

I don’t know how successful the governor will be is convincing Molly Munger to put her measure aside. What I do know is that she comes at her proposal with long experience and a genuine passion.

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