By David Siders
Published: Friday, Jan. 20, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Friday, Jan. 20, 2012 – 12:13 am

SAN DIEGO – Gov. Jerry Brown, campaigning for higher taxes and infrastructure spending in the state’s more conservative reaches Thursday, claimed widespread business support for his tax plan and suggested dire consequences should it fail.

“The stakes are very high,” Brown told reporters after meeting privately with members of the Orange County Business Council. “We’re talking about kids, schools, colleges and universities.”

Appearing in Irvine and San Diego a day after his State of the State address, Brown used the attention of Southern California’s large media markets to amplify his call for taxes and for transportation and water spending.

The Democratic governor said Kaiser Permanente and Occidental Petroleum Corp. are among the businesses that have donated or will donate to his tax campaign. Brown already has raised more than $1.2 million for the effort.

His November ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California’s highest earners was cleared for circulation this week.

“We’re on our way to having a substantial sum in the bank before the month is out,” Brown said. “Business is not only supporting it, but they’re putting their money where their mouth is.”

The effect of businesses’ support is uncertain. Brown has enjoyed a favorable relationship with business groups since taking office last year, but their support of his tax measure a year ago did not help him win over Republicans in the Legislature.

This year, despite expecting many businesses to support him, even Brown has said the tax plan might not be endorsed by the California Chamber of Commerce. Many conservatives who oppose the proposal believe higher taxes would burden businesses in a slumping economy.

Asked about the impact of higher taxes on business, Brown said he thinks “this $6 billion tax for five years in the context of a $2 trillion economy will help our schools and in no way retard our business investment.”

On the second day of a two-day swing through Southern California, Brown stumped in more conservative territory than the previous day, when he addressed a joint session of the Democratic-controlled Legislature in Sacramento and an invitation-only crowd in Los Angeles. Both San Diego and Orange counties went for Brown’s Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, in the 2010 election – in Orange County, by almost 20 percentage points.

But the business group in Irvine appeared sympathetic, its president appearing with Brown before reporters to make the point that taxpayers would pay less under his proposal than they did under recently expired tax rates.

“It’s less money than what we just left in 2010,” said Lucetta Dunn, president of the Orange County Business Council. “That becomes a compelling argument that I think our business community needs to focus on, and I think as a result, the general population will see that.”

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