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Born-Again Tax Cutter? Home-State Critics Scoff at Brown’s Claim With Graphic

March 31, 1992 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Jerry Brown’s campaign ads say he slashed California’s taxes, but the Democratic presidential hopeful actually fought to defeat the biggest tax cut of his reign as governor.

Brown’s claim is drawing fire from home-staters who recall the fight over Proposition 13, the huge 1978 cut in property taxes.

″He would not be able to come into California and make that claim,″ said Ron Roach, spokesman for the California Taxpayers’ Association. ″Brown opposed Proposition 13 until the end.″

Brown television ads running in advance of New York’s primary next week say he ″cut taxes for the working class″ and ″against conventional wisdom he took California from the 5th highest taxed state to the 24th.″

California’s state and local taxes did indeed fall from $145.91 per $1,000 in income in 1975 when Brown became governor to $112.59 in 1982, his last year in office.

But the main reason was Proposition 13, the taxpayer-led ballot initiative in 1978 that cut property tax revenues from $10.5 billion to $5.4 billion.

Although Brown enthusiastically implemented Proposition 13 and called himself a ″born-again tax cutter,″ he vehemently opposed the plan before its passage by voters - a fact well remembered in California.

Richard L. Gann, whose late father Paul Gann figured prominently in the California tax revolt, said Brown was a ″converted Prop 13 supporter″ who has since taken credit for easing the burden on taxpayers.

″I know of no responsible leader in this state that would substantiate that (ad’s) claim,″ Gann said. ″ ... He was part of the political establishment that was totally non-responsive to the needs and will of the people.″

Tom Pier, a spokesman for Brown, said Tuesday the campaign stood by the ads. He said Brown initially opposed Proposition 13 because he feared it would undermine schools, which were funded by property taxes.

Brown had offered an alternative tax cutting plan, Pier said. ″I think his intention was to reduce the tax burden all along ... But given the reality of Prop 13 he was not in a position to implement his own tax cuts.″

But Lenny Goldberg, head of the California Tax Reform Association, said Brown should not take credit for a tax cut he opposed.

He said the Prop 13 revolt succeeded in part because Brown failed to come up with a satisfactory tax cut plan while sitting on a $4 billion state tax surplus.

″Instead of giving tax relief back to taxpayers he hoarded the state tax surplus,″ Goldberg said. ″Everyone knew we needed property tax relief and his property tax relief plan was one of the weakest.″

Brown’s record on California taxes is mixed, according to observers. After leading the opposition to Proposition 13, he supported cutting the state inheritance tax and implementing an indexing system that moderately reduced income tax bills.

But in one of his last acts as governor he signed into law a 2-cent-per- gallon gas tax increase.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, California’s tax burden steadily rose during Brown’s first time peaking at $157.99 per $1,000 income in 1978, when the taxpayer revolt reversed the trend.

From that point, the state tax burden steadily fell, bottoming at $112.59 in fiscal 1982, Brown’s last full year as governor.