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Tax initiatives will offer a choice

It’s good news that polls show a majority of Californians recognizes the need for additional tax revenues to balance the state budget and end the painful cutting of the past three years. It’s also good news that the number of tax initiatives on the November ballot is likely to be two, not three, as was the case just a week ago.

Gov. Jerry Brown, worried that his initiative might not stand out in the crowd, worked out a compromise with the California Federation of Teachers, the group behind the so-called “millionaires’ tax.” That initiative had been polling better than Brown’s, at 68 percent approval to 53 percent.

The bad news is that they will have only about 30 days to gather more than 800,000 signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

The compromise retains the structure of Brown’s initiative but ups its increase in taxes on the wealthy by a point or two and for a longer period of time, seven years instead of five. At the same time, it reduces Brown’s proposed sales-tax hike from a half-cent to a quarter-cent through 2016.

Gone is the name “millionaires’ tax,” which no doubt was part of the reason the initiative had been polling well. The 99 percent of us who aren’t rich like the idea of taxing the 1 percent who are rich.

The other measure likely to be on the November ballot is wealthy civil-rights attorney Molly Munger’s “Our Children, Our Future.” It’s the only one to call for shared sacrifice by proposing to increase the income-tax rate for all but the poor. It would do so in a progressive manner, with the well-to-do paying at a much higher rate than those with more modest incomes.

Still, it would tax nearly everyone, which is why it won’t pass. We Californians are OK with higher taxes these days, as long as someone else is paying them.