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Election 2016 FAQ: Proposition 55, Extension Of Income Tax Increase

Proposition 55.
California Counts
Proposition 55.

Proposition 55 extends for another 12 years the temporary tax increases mandated by an earlier proposition See a list of all our proposition explainers here.

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

The basics


In 2012, voters approved Proposition 30, raising sales and income taxes. As part of his pitch to voters, Gov. Jerry Brown promised the increases would be temporary. The new taxes, he said, would protect funding for schools and help balance the state budget after years of spending cuts and deficits. Those temporary tax increases are set to begin expiring at the end of this year.

But now a coalition of teachers, labor unions and health care professionals is sponsoring Proposition 55. It asks Californians to extend the income tax increases for another 12 years. Their goal: continue funding schools and health care programs for low-income families.

What you're voting on

Proposition 55 would require the wealthiest Californians to keep paying higher income taxes through 2030. Under Brown’s earlier measure, those taxes would expire after 2018. The tax levy starts at 1 percent for individuals making $250,000 annually, increasing to 3 percent for individuals making above $500,000.

If Proposition 55 passes, finance officials estimate it will raise $4 billion to $9 billion a year, depending on the economy. The additional money would be used for schools, low-income health care and the state’s rainy day fund. That’s different from Brown’s 2012 ballot measure, which was billed by the governor as a school funding mechanism but actually funded all state programs.


Under Proposition 55, half of the funds will go to K-12 schools and community colleges.

Up to $2 billion a year would be put toward health care for low-income students and their families through the state’s Medi-Cal program, and up to $1.5 billion would be saved and used for state debt payments.

Proposition 55 doesn’t extend the quarter-cent sales tax increase that was part of the governor’s 2012 tax hike. That tax will expire at the end of this year.

Who are the supporters and opponents?

The governor hasn’t taken a position on the measure, but his administration has said that California will face deficits in the future without higher income taxes.

The California Chamber of Commerce and the state Republican Party are among those opposing Proposition 55. Opponents say California’s taxes are too high and the 2012 tax increases were supposed to be temporary.

Fiscal impact — by the League of Women Voters Education Fund

Proposition 55 would raise between $4 billion and $9 billion in taxes each year for the state. Roughly half of this money will go toward schools and community colleges. Medi-Cal could receive up to $2 billion extra annually, depending on the taxes collected and other factors.

Supporters say — by the League of Women Voters Education Fund

  • Proposition 55 would provide billions of dollars for schools and community colleges.
  • Proposition 55 would affect only California residents who can afford to pay more in taxes.

Opponents say —by the League of Women Voters Education Fund

  • Voters should respect their decision from 2012. Current taxes should expire in 2018.
  • Proposition 55 will hurt small businesses and eliminate jobs. It will also take money away from people who have worked hard to earn it.

How much is being spent on the campaigns?

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