OAKLAND -- Just before Gov. Jerry Brown released his May budget revision Monday, an East Bay lawmaker touted her bill to raise taxes on the richest 1 percent of California's residents by 1 percentage point -- a move she said would bring in $2.3 billion per year.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said at a news conference outside the state office building on Clay Street that she knew she wouldn't get any Republican votes for AB 1130 when it was heard by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee. In fact, the committee passed the bill Monday night, with all Democrats supporting it and all Republicans opposing it.
She acknowledged she's staking out the liberal side of the spectrum in hopes of dragging the overall budget dialogue in that direction. But she also thinks some rich folks would be OK with her bill, as polls show most Californians already are.
She cited Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who last September announced a $100 million gift to Newark, N.J.'s cash-strapped public schools. If California's richest gave far tinier portions of their fortunes to the state's general fund, she said, crucial education, health and public safety services would be preserved.
Asked if there's a difference between millionaires giving and government taking, Skinner replied, "It's hard for me to imagine they would have a strong objection to 1 percent on the top 1 percent."
Her bill would restore the state's marginal income tax rate to where it was under Republican governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, affecting only those making $500,000 or more per year -- a populace whom Skinner noted received a huge federal tax break last fall as Congress extended tax cuts enacted under the Bush administration. California's richest got an average of $90,000 per year from those cuts, she said, while her bill would cost them an average of $1,000 to $2,000; that sum then would be deductible on their federal taxes.
A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll found 62 percent of likely voters support raising the top tax rate on the state's wealthiest residents.
"There's a growing understanding that tax breaks for the richest in this society "... can no longer be tolerated" while public services suffer, said California Federation of Teachers President-elect Joshua Pechthalt, adding that passing this bill and extending current taxes as Brown renewed his call to do Monday would be "the adult and responsible thing to do."
Republican lawmakers are behaving like "rabid watchdogs, barking and snapping" at any who propose civic responsibility, he said, and should beware of public backlashes like those seen in Egypt and Wisconsin.
Ken Jacobs, chairman of UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education, said Skinner's bill could save tens of thousands of jobs by avoiding deep education and health care cuts.
The presidents of the Oakland Education Association and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers also were at the news conference to support Skinner's bill.