State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said this afternoon that he will vote for Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot initiative to raise taxes, despite concerns about the measure's burden on California's highest-income earners.
Lockyer, who said last year that California had neared its reasonable limit for taxing the rich, told the Sacramento Press Club that the alternative -- billions of dollars in spending reductions, including to education -- is intolerable.
"I'm voting for the governor's tax proposal," said Lockyer, a Democrat. "The cuts to education if it doesn't pass are so severe that it will injure our ability to produce an informed citizenry and workforce that we need for the future of California, so I'm a 'yes' vote."
Brown proposes to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.
"I worry a little bit about fairness," Lockyer said, "although when you look at the income distributions in the last 20 years and see that essentially 80 percent of the people in California have either stagnated or fallen backward, 20 percent are the folks that actually have more disposable income, maybe progressive income taxes are relevant and fair in that kind of environment."
"However, you do get to the top pretty quick, and the potential for out-of-state migration is substantial enough that we have to be very sensitive about those rates," he added.
In a compromise to push a more popular, competing tax measure off the November ballot, the Democratic governor changed his tax initiative in March to include a larger tax increase on the wealthiest Californians than he initially wanted.
Lockyer said Brown had little choice but to alter his measure, adding, "I think he shares the same anxiety about practical impacts of our personal income tax getting high, or higher."
Lockyer's remarks came a day after Brown's tax measure and two others officially qualified for the November ballot. Lockyer said, "I reserve judgment" on the other two, one that would raise income taxes on all but the poorest Californians and one involving changes to the state's corporate tax formula.
Lockyer remained quiet about the scandal involving his wife, Nadia, who resigned from her position as an Alameda County supervisor after revelations of an affair and substance abuse.
The treasurer declined to discuss his wife's accusation he once supplied her with drugs, a claim Bill Lockyer's spokesman has previously denied.
"With respect to the personal matter, yes, I haven't commented much and don't intend to today," Bill Lockyer said.
The treasurer would at least allude to the matter later, however, provoking laughter while discussing rating agencies and California's creditworthiness.
"Have rating agencies in the past been probably too friendly with investors and Wall Street underwriters and others?" he said. "Yes, and whether people made money because of low ratings of some issuers? Yes, and was there sort of a co-dependent enabling going on -- sorry to start answering my last question, earlier -- but was there some of that going on with respect to the financial institutions? Yeah."