Dan Morain

By Dan Morain, Senior editor
Published: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1E
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 – 9:39 am

Gov. Jerry Brown must be feeling like he has left California and landed in the State of Munger.

It’s not a hospitable place. Mungerland is populated by Molly and Charles Munger, two of nine children of Charles Munger, the billionaire partner of billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

The offspring have plenty of money, too, as Brown is finding as he tries to win passage of Proposition 30, the $6 billion-a-year tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“With the Munger family, we’re getting both barrels,” Brown told me by phone the other day, clearly worried that his initiative might not survive the onslaught.

Molly, a liberal civil rights lawyer, has spent $31 million on her Proposition 38, which would raise income taxes by $10 billion a year to fund public schools. She spent $3 million more last week for television ads that swipe at Brown’s initiative.

Charles Munger, Molly Munger’s half brother and the Santa Clara County Republican Party chairman, has given $20 million to yet another campaign group that is targeting Brown’s initiative in a more direct attack.

As weird as California politics are, there’s never been a drama quite like the one playing out now. It would be amusing, except that the stakes are so high.

“The state is at risk here,” Brown said. “We are at risk and it will be very hard to recover.”

Brown’s Proposition 30 would generate $5 billion a year by raising income taxes on high earners, and another $1 billion by jacking up sales taxes by a one-quarter of a percentage point. The money would help stabilize state finances, pay down debt, fund local law enforcement and give some money for schools.

In this year’s budget, Brown made the optimistic assumption that voters would approve Proposition 30. But on the chance that it might fail, the budget included the threat of trigger cuts amounting to $6 billion, most of it coming from schools and universities.

“I think she thinks we’re kidding about the trigger cuts. The truth is you can’t borrow more money,” Brown said.

Brown knows that if Proposition 30 fails, legislators and lobbyists will want to unwind the trigger cuts, “and I won’t let them,” he said. “I can’t. How do you do it? Tell me, where do you get the money? Where’s it going to come from? What’s the gimmick?”

Sure enough, Molly Munger said she seriously doubts Democrats in Sacramento would whack $5 billion from public schools and another $500 million from universities.

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