By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
August 27, 2012

SACRAMENTO — Some of the largest corporate interests in California have poured millions of dollars into an initiative campaign this year, as they have many times before. But this time, they’re not asking voters to ease industry regulations or limit government power. Instead, they want approval of an $8-billion-a-year tax hike pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Since taking office more than 18 months ago, the Democratic governor has held dozens of meetings with such unnatural allies as oil companies, insurers and telecommunications interests that typically stand with Republicans, taking stock of their concerns and pitching them on the need for higher taxes. Some paid for polling that helped guide the governor as he put his initiative together.

To rally them to his cause, he cast aside several ideas — new levies on oil extraction, soft drinks or alcohol, for example — that have proved more popular with voters than his blend of temporary sales and income taxes.

He opted for a quarter-cent hike in sales taxes and an increase of 1 to 3 percentage points on individual incomes of more than $250,000 after assurances from business leaders that even if they did not wholeheartedly embrace Proposition 30, they would not reach into their deep pockets to wage war against it. So far, it seems to be working.

“I think mostly we see the governor wanting to do the right things for the state’s economy,” said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council business group. He has met several times with Brown, and the group will decide its position on Proposition 30 next month.

Labor unions and Democratic lawmakers spent almost $7 million qualifying Proposition 30 for the ballot. And Democratic interests contributed about 40% of the more than $10.3 million Brown has raised for the campaign ahead. But most of the governor’s campaign fund — upward of $6 million — has so far come from a broad coalition of entrepreneurs, Indian tribes that own casinos and other business interests.

In addition to the energy corporations, insurance companies and telecommunications companies, hospitals, movie studios and utilities have also opened their checkbooks. Many of these groups have an interest in bills pending in the Legislature that may go to the governor for his signature or veto.

Others see Proposition 30’s broad-based taxes as more desirable than additional levies on oil, alcohol or other items that could be among Brown’s next options if voters reject his initiative.

“Proposition 30 is a reasonable solution that helps maintain the state’s economic stability,” says Karen Hanretty, spokeswoman for the American Beverage Assn., which gave $250,000 to the Yes on 30 campaign. “The beverage industry believes it is important to help Gov. Brown manage the state’s chronic budget deficit.”

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