Supporters of proposed ‘Millionaires Tax’ hold event in downtown Oakland

Faith Buchanan/Staff
Community members gathered at the Elihu M. Harris State of California Office Building in support of the Millionaires Tax.

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Supporters of an initiative that would tax the wealthiest Californians rallied in downtown Oakland Tuesday afternoon to garner support and collect signatures to place the measure on the November state ballot.

About 40 people gathered in front of the Elihu M. Harris State of California Office Building for a 4 p.m. Occupy Education event, which featured speakers from several Occupy movements, labor unions and community members which support the proposed “Millionaires Tax.”

Should the proposal pass, Californians earning $1 million or more would pay an extra 3 percent in state income tax, and those earning $2 million or more would pay an additional 5 percent in income tax, according to the initiative’s website. The tax initiative would generate $6 billion to $9.5 billion per year, according to its website.

But earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown amended his original tax initiative to align more with the Millionaires Tax by increasing his proposed tax on on Californians in the highest annual income bracket — $500,000 for singles and $1 million for couples — by 3 percentage points instead of the 2 percentage points his original initiative called for. The new version of Brown’s initiative would also only increase state sales tax by a quarter of a percentage point instead of half a percentage point, while the Millionaires Tax would not include a sales tax increase.

If voters reject Brown’s initiative in November, the UC and CSU will each be faced with a $200 million cut, according to Brown’s January budget plan.

Several students spoke at Tuesday’s event in Oakland, including Honest Chung, a UC Berkeley senior who is running for ASUC president with Students for a Democratic University. Chung encouraged campus activism in support of the initiative.

“Neither Republicans nor Democrats are our friends or allies of public education,” Chung said. “At the university level, people don’t understand the power they have.”

Mustafa Popal, a teacher at the College of Alameda, said he opposes Brown’s proposed sales tax increase because it would affect those who have already suffered from the economic crisis.

“We didn’t create this crisis, and we shouldn’t be paying for it,” he said.

A March 7 poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California found that just 52 percent of likely voters supported Brown’s original initiative.

Dana Blanchard, member of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said she supports the Millionaires Tax because it would reserve 60 percent of its revenue for public education, with 24 percent of the revenue split equally between community colleges, California State University and the University of California.

“Part of what people want to see is accountability,” she said.

The Millionaires Tax initiative must gather 800,000 signatures in order to make it onto the November ballot, and supporters hope to raise 450,000 signatures before the deadline in eight weeks, according to Blanchard.