Less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown claimed widespread business support for his ballot initiative to raise taxes - including donations from big healthcare and oil companies - the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business urged business groups this afternoon to resist any effort by Brown to "cajole" them.
"We know that Governor Brown, just through the power of his office alone, can cajole and perhaps even threaten vulnerable businesses," the groups said in an open letter. "It is therefore not lost on us that, under certain circumstances, modest support to help the governor place his measure on the ballot might be viewed a lesser of two evils or, more likely, as an insurance payment. However, on behalf of citizen taxpayers and the small business community, we appeal to your sense of doing what is right for all of California."
The Democratic governor, who is proposing to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest-earners, has enjoyed a relatively favorable relationship with business interests since taking office, and he met with business groups last week in Southern California. The letter was released on the eve of an appearance by Brown before the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
Brown spokesman Gil Duran cited favorable polling for the tax measure - including among Republicans - and dismissed as "a baseless accusation, a hyperventilation meant to generate headlines" the suggestion that business groups might feel threatened by Brown.
The taxpayers association and business federation said the higher taxes proposed by Brown would hurt California's already-shaky economy.
"We also would like to reiterate our belief that when citizen taxpayer groups, small business interests and major corporations stand together for the common good, we constitute a formidable force to prevent a further erosion of California's tax and regulatory climate," the groups said in their letter. "Therefore, representing citizen taxpayers and small businesses in California, we appeal to you and your members to do the right thing and oppose any and all proposed tax increases. As Benjamin Franklin once noted, we must hang together in order to avoid hanging separately."