Dan Walters

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

California voters are certain – as certain as anything can be in the topsy-turvy world of politics – to pass judgment on a multibillion-dollar tax increase measure next year, but what kind of measure is very much up in the air.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who tried and failed to persuade some Republicans this year to place taxes on the ballot, has often declared his intention to seek more tax revenues from voters via an initiative in 2012.

However, Brown has ducked when asked by reporters what he would include in his tax measure, saying in several ways that he’s still working on it.

He can’t delay much longer, however, because realistically, he and his allies – most likely public employee unions – would have to launch their initiative drive early in 2012 to assure placement on the November ballot.

The governor is caught, it appears, in something of a political vise.

The tax package he had sought for months – an extension of broadly based temporary taxes that were enacted in 2009 and expired this year – could be very difficult to pass, as recent polls have indicated.

It would raise income, sales and car taxes by roughly $1,000 per family per year, a hard sell in a state still coping with severe recession and whose residents already shoulder one of the nation’s highest tax burdens.

Voters would, the polls indicate, be more likely to accept taxes that most wouldn’t be paying themselves, at least directly, such as income surtaxes on the rich, taxes on corporations, or cigarette taxes.

Those narrower taxes, however, probably would not be sufficient to raise the $10 billion or so a year in revenue that Brown wants to close the state’s chronic budget deficit. And they would engender opposition from business leaders who have signaled that they wouldn’t oppose a broader tax hike such as the one Brown sought this year.

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