One of the backers of the original "millionaire's tax" proposed by the California Federation of Teachers recently told me that Gov. Jerry Brown was at risk of repeating a mistake he made in his first go-round in the governor's office: underestimating the extent of a wave of public sentiment about taxes.
In the mid-1970s, it was underestimating the extent of voter anger over property taxes -- a mistake that led to the Proposition 13 initiative in 1978. Only after it passed did Brown see the light on that movement, becoming a "born again" tax cutter.
Fast forward to 2012, this source said, and Brown was seriously misreading the wave of public anger about the concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent and the desire that taxes on the very wealthy be raised.
Unable to persuade the California Federation of Teachers to back down on their millionaire's tax, Brown folded parts of that proposal into his -- creating an initiative that can reasonably sold as a tax increase on the very wealthy.
The extent of sentiment in support of that idea was reflected in the recent Los Angeles Times-USC Dornsife College poll, which registered support for the blended tax proposal at 64 percent, with just 32 percent opposed. Even more significantly, independents backed the measure 75 percent to 23 percent.
A separate question on the since-dropped millionaire's tax, which was even more heavily weighted toward taxing the ultra-rich, polled at 69 percent support..
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, whose firm teams with the Republican polling firm American Viewpoint to conduct the USC poll, told me on a telephone conference call this morning that not only were the numbers strong but so was enthusiasm for the idea. Half of the 69 percent who supported it said they "strongly favored" it.
Greenberg said the findings in California are consistent with poll findings nationwide on federal proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest income-earners.
While those associated with the USC poll warned the support could drop if the proposal faces funded opposition in the fall, it could also be possible that this is a moment in time when voter anger over gross income inequality is so strong that the measure would be bulletproof against opposition. That's what happened in 1978, when the business community and the entire state establishment campaigned hard against Proposition 13 but couldn't make a dent in voter sentiment.