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Brown initiative: 0.5% sales tax increase, 2% income tax increase for $250,000+

File: California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters as he announces his proposed budget at the California State Capitol on Jan. 10, 2011 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
File: California Governor Jerry Brown speaks to reporters as he announces his proposed budget at the California State Capitol on January 10, 2011 in Sacramento, California.

Gov. Jerry Brown has filed a ballot initiative to temporarily raise taxes on high income earners, Brown announced Monday in an “open letter” to California voters. The plan also hikes the state sales tax by half a percent. If approved by voters, the funds would go to education and public safety.

The income tax hike would apply to millionaires, single people who make more than $250,000 a year or couples that earn more than $500,000 a year. Brown's open letter says that his proposal includes up to 2 percent higher income taxes for five years for high income earners, while pointing out that it would affect less than 2 percent of taxpayers.

He notes that the broader 0.5 percent sales tax increase is still less than Californians paid under a temporary sales tax increase that expired in June.

It's an unusual move, as the governor doesn't normally publish open letters. "I am going directly to the voters because I don't want to get bogged down in partisan gridlock as happened this year," Brown writes in his open letter. "The stakes are too high."

The governor calls the plan straightforward and fair.

Brown says both tax hikes, scheduled to end within five years, would generate an extra $7 billion for the state to prevent deeper cuts to schools, universities and public safety.

That would free up some state money California could use to shore up social services and support for public universities.

In the letter, Brown attacks Republicans for not providing the votes needed to put the tax increases in his Jan. 2011 proposed budget on the ballot.

Brown praised the progress made this year, noting that the budget deficit had been cut by over half, the state's workforce has been reduced by 5,500 positions and other expenses, including cell phones and state cars, were cut, for a total reduction of $10 billion.

Correction: This story originally stated that the tax increase was for those making over $500,000; it also applies to individuals making over $250,000.

This story has been updated.