The Think Long Committee for California – a panel of experts funded by an itinerant billionaire that had developed plans for tax reform and a citizens’ oversight committee – will delay putting its plans to voters from 2012 to 2014.
The committee, which released its report in November, issued a statement today sying it has been “vigorously discussing and developing a viable action plan and timeline for implementing our broad range of proposals ever since.”
“Consistent with our collective view that California needs to think, plan and act for the long term, we’ve been guided by the cardinal rule that it is far more important to get our reforms done ‘right’ than ‘right away,’” the committee said.
The committee had proposed broadening the state’s tax base while raising $10 billion per year in new revenue by extending the state sales tax to services such as auto repair, dry cleaning, legal work and accounting (but not health care or education), while lowering the sales tax on goods, reducing personal income tax rates and reducing the corporate tax rate.
It also proposed creating an “independent, impartial and nonpartisan” Citizens Council for Government Accountability. That council would have 13 members — including nine named by the governor — to oversee government functions and conduct long-term planning. It would have power to place measures directly on the ballot without collecting signatures, and to have the secretary of state publish its comments and positions on measures in the state voters’ guide. It also would have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents.
Members of the committee include former Gov. Gray Davis; former Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor Willie Brown; former U.S. secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz; GOP power broker Gerald Parsky; Google Chairman Eric Schmidt; and many others. Committee founder and funder Nicolas Berggruen had promised to put up at least $20 million to convince voters to implement these plans as ballot measures in 2012.
Although the proposals had seemed to meet with muted, if not negative reactions from many current politicos, the committee’s statement today says it was “gratified by the overwhelming interest from elected leaders in both parties, including Governor Brown, stakeholders and everyday citizens in these bold, broad-based changes.”
California is “hungry for real reform and are more willing than ever to support a sweeping plan that is fair and will put an end to California’s perpetual financial volatility and suffocating wall of debt,” the committee said.
“At the same time, we recognize the practical constraints of the 2012 election calendar – and have come to the conclusion that it will take more time to perfect these proposals, eliminate unintended consequences and provide every stakeholder and everyday Californians a meaningful voice in that process,” it said.
And so the committee will keep trying to sell the plan with hopes of putting it to voters on the November 2014 ballot.
“In the meantime, a high-turnout election is a terrible thing to waste. California voters deserve the opportunity in 2012 to begin the long process of reforming state government,” the committee’s statement said. “Therefore, in the coming days, we will be announcing our intention to partner with other organizations by generously supporting one or more reform measures that have already been filed for the 2012 elections, consistent with our Blueprint.”
The statement doesn’t specify which measures the committee will back.
The committee said it also will co-sponsor the California Economic Summit in May to develop a statewide job creation and competitiveness implementation plan; support regulatory reform, including that of the California Environmental Quality Act, to maintain the state’s environmental leadership while speeding up permissions for job-creating projects; and work with the governor and other state, federal and local officials to create “plug-and-play” pre-permitted zones to attract new investment to California.
UPDATE @ 3:40 P.M.: Gov. Jerry Brown just issued this statement: “Think Long is doing very important work and I look forward to working with them on the critical issue of more permanent tax reform.”