By Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle
A well-funded team of top California political, business and civic leaders will propose a ballot measure that would overhaul the state’s tax system by simultaneously cutting income taxes across the board while raising $10 billion a year by expanding the sales tax to include services.
The Think Long Committee for California also is ready to propose a ballot measure that would alter the state’s initiative process by creating an independent, nonpartisan panel that would have the power to propose initiatives, according to a copy of the panel’s 24-page plan that The Chronicle has obtained.
Ideas to reform California’s dysfunctional government surface frequently, and just as often are ignored. What makes Think Long different is the bipartisan star power of its 17-member panel and the $20 million or more that its chairman, billionaire businessman Nicolas Berggruen, said he will spend in support of ballot measures.
Berggruen will be backed by committee members including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Southern California billionaire developer Eli Broad, former San Francisco Mayor and Chronicle columnist Willie Brown and former California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George.
Each is expected to raise money or manpower to back the ballot measures. Think Long, which shaped its proposals during private meetings held over the past year, plans to put at least two of its proposals on the November 2012 ballot.
While the panel’s report includes a wide range of government and education reforms, one of its most provocative ideas is its tax overhaul proposal, which Think Long adviser Nathan Gardels called an “ideological hybrid” model that combines ideas from the political right and left.