By Jim Sanders
jsanders@sacbee.com
Published: Saturday, May. 5, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The stage was set Friday for three revenue-raising measures to qualify for the November ballot after a group led by hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer submitted more than 900,000 signatures for a tax increase on out-of-state businesses.

Proponents of two other tax initiatives, driven separately by Gov. Jerry Brown and civil rights attorney Molly Munger, said they have collected more than enough signatures to place their proposals before voters.

The measures would generate billions in revenue for a state rocked by recession and cuts to education and public services in recent years.

But Mitch Zak, spokesman for a coalition opposing Steyer’s initiative, predicted that Californians will reject all three.

“Our belief is that the people of California are going to end up sending one loud, clear and unambiguous message that higher taxes are not the solution to California’s economic woes,” Zak said.

Steyer’s initiative, for the first five years, is projected to raise about $1 billion annually. Half would go toward energy conservation efforts at schools and other buildings, the other half would bolster the state’s general fund.

After five years, the entire amount raised by the initiative would go to the state’s general fund.

Steyer’s petitions contain about 400,000 more voter signatures than the 504,760 necessary to qualify for the ballot, an overage to account for signatures deemed ineligible in a check of voter rolls.

“We think we’re on the ballot for sure,” Steyer said.

The initiative targets a provision of California tax law that was part of the state’s 2009 budget deal.

Current law allows companies to choose the more beneficial of two tax formulas – one based solely on sales in California in proportion to sales elsewhere, the other accounting for sales, payroll and property in California.

Steyer’s measure would eliminate the choice and require use of the “single sales factor” – the formula tied to California sales.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez separately has introduced a two-bill package, Assembly Bills 1500 and 1501, to require use of the single sales factor. His proposal would earmark the billion dollars for a different purpose: college scholarships.

Steyer said his campaign would “stand down” in deference to Pérez’s bills if they pass the Legislature.

“We’d stop campaigning immediately,” he said.

An environmental coalition is teaming with Steyer, Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles, and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz to push the business-tax initiative.

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