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Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that it's time to end sparring over competing measures and rally behind Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative for the November ballot.

The Sacramento Democrat, in what he characterized as a "clarion call," said that Brown's tax initiative appears to be the state's best alternative. Placing competing measures on the ballot could hurt its prospects, he said.

"It's time to get behind the governor's tax initiative," Steinberg said.

"If you have two or three of them on the ballot at one time, they're all at risk of losing," he said.

Brown's proposal would generate nearly $7 billion in budget relief by raising income taxes on high earners and by enacting a half-cent increase in the sales tax.

Two other revenue-raising proposals are being debated among Democrats supporting a tax hike.

The California Federation of Teachers is pushing a tax increase on millionaires, while attorney Molly Munger, an activist on civil rights and education policy issues, is leading a drive to raise state income taxes for all but the poorest Californians to fund schools and early childhood development proposals.

Steinberg, who led a drive to increase taxes on the wealthy seven years ago, said he is convinced that the newly proposed millionaires tax would spark "significant funded opposition" that could sink it at the polls.

The Senate leader said that he wants to see another round of polling on Munger's proposal but that it is not likely to catch fire among voters because it proposes an income tax hike on most working Californians.

"Her polls and the public polls that I've seen show her initiative as not having great upward trajectory," he said.

"I just don't think this is the time," he said of Munger's proposal. "Because the time is now to get behind one solid proposal that presents the biggest opportunity to both fund education and also to end the deficit in California."

Asked if supporters of the tax proposals competing with Brown's could collect the required number of ballot signatures but delay turning them in, thus qualifying for the 2014 ballot, Steinberg indicated that was a viable option.

"I'm just going to say this: We're looking at that very carefully," he said. "I think all things are possible."


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