The California Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition today to two of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax rivals but remained silent on the governor's own plan, tacitly giving his proposal a boost as he tries to thin the field.
The Chamber's board voted to oppose a tax on millionaires circulated by the California Federation of Teachers, as well as a progressive income tax hike on most earners backed by wealthy attorney Molly Munger. It did not take a vote on Brown's initiative, according to Chamber president and CEO Allan Zaremberg.
"I can just say we wanted to take up those things we felt were urgent to position on, and we're opposing these two tax measures along with a couple of other things members asked us to take a leadership role in," Zaremberg said.
Brown has asked industry groups to at least remain neutral on his plan to raise taxes on sales and high-income earners, and he has tried to portray his plan as unique for its lack of business opposition. But CFT has shown little indication of vacating its measure and donated another $1.15 million toward its signature-gathering drive this month, according to a statement filed today.
Zaremberg said the CFT and Munger proposals are different from Brown's because "they're permanent or virtually permanent ... so I don't think you can look at them the same way."
He added that the proposals would hurt job creation because some small business owners may have to pay higher rates. He also said the CFT plan in particular would drive taxpayers earning more than $2 million annually to either move out of state or change their behavior to avoid paying a top rate of 15.3 percent.
"These are very sophisticated people with very sophisticated tax advice," Zaremberg said. "When they have a 40 to 50 percent tax increase, they have experts advising them on whether they should move out of state or how to dispose of things in a sophisticated manner."
Zaremberg added, "It's one reason I think there will clearly be an opposition campaign."
Last week, the California Business Roundtable took an identical position on the three multibillion-dollar tax initiatives.
Within minutes of the Chamber's announcement, backers of the CFT's tax on millionaires appeared to delight in seeing business oppose their plan while staying neutral on the governor's. The "millionaires tax" campaign reposted a comment on Twitter from activist Raven Brooks: "About says it all."
Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to clarify that the chamber did not take a neutral position on Brown's measure, but rather decided to take no position. Updated 5:30 p.m., March 12, 2012.