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PolitiFact: In Brown's term, Californians did see taxes go down

The statement

"Taxes went down under Jerry Brown."

Jerry Brown, in a campaign ad

The ruling

The California governor's race between Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown has turned into a political retrospective of the '70s, '80s and '90s, with a special guest appearance from Bill Clinton.

An ad from the Whitman campaign has used a clip from the 1992 presidential primary. Clinton and Brown were running for the nomination. In the old interview Clinton says: "CNN — not me, CNN — says his assertion about his tax record was, quote, just plain wrong. Jerry Brown went out there and took credit for the fact that the people of California voted for Proposition 13, which lowered taxes, which he opposed. And now he's going around and taking credit for it. He raised taxes as governor of California. He had a surplus when he took office and a deficit when he left. He doesn't tell the people the truth."

Clinton endorsed Brown on Tuesday. In a statement, Clinton said the Whitman ad is misleading because the CNN report he cited in 1992 was "erroneous."

Brown put out his own ad, defending his record. It says Clinton's claim was wrong, and in fact: "Taxes went down under Jerry Brown."

We decided to check.

The 1992 CNN report was based on a California Department of Finance measure of the tax burden per $100 of income. But CNN looked at the wrong years. Jerry Brown oversaw budgets for fiscal years 1975 to 1982. The tax burden during that time started at $6.95 per $100 of income, increased to a high of $7.74 in 1977, then declined to $6.56 in 1982.

Records show that Brown signed a two-cent per gallon gasoline tax, but he also indexed income tax brackets for inflation, which reduced taxes for some. He signed measures that both increased and decreased taxes for some businesses.

He oversaw large state surpluses in his early years as governor, which happened without any new tax increases. And he initially opposed the tax revolt movement for Proposition 13, but after it passed he became an ardent defender.

The most significant evidence in favor of Brown's statement is the state numbers that show taxes per $100 of resident income. By that metric, taxes went up, and then down under Brown, and finished a little lower than when he started. Those numbers sway the meter in a positive direction. We rate the claim "Taxes went down under Jerry Brown," as Mostly True.

Edited for print. For more, go to

PolitiFact: In Brown's term, Californians did see taxes go down 09/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 17, 2010 9:48pm]
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