Judge rules Gov. Brown's tax initiative can get top ballot billing over competing education initiative

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A ruling Monday by a Sacramento judge clears the way for Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax for schools initiative to occupy a coveted place at the top of the November statewide ballot, denying a request from a competing tax campaign

Wealthy Pasadena lawyer Molly Munger challenged that ballot placement two weeks ago. Munger said she submitted signatures for her own tax-for-schools initiative before Gov. Brown did. Proponents of each measure believe their initiatives will get more votes in November if their proposal appears at the top of the ballot.

Attorneys for the Our Children, Our Future campaign argued that their initiative should have qualified first because it turned in signatures earlier than Brown's campaign.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny said L.A. County officials did nothing wrong when they sent Brown’s initiative to California’s top elections office at the same time they sent Munger’s proposal. In a statement, Munger spokesman Nate Ballard said his side will not appeal the ruling.

“We look forward to a spirited campaign on the merits,” Ballard said. Munger’s proposal would increase most Californians’ income taxes by one percent to raise about $10 billion a year for schools. Brown’s measure would raise about $1 billion less than that through increased sales and income taxes.

Jon Coupal, president of the anti-tax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said his group is considering filing its own challenge.

Democratic lawmakers gave Brown an edge by passing a bill that moved bond measures and constitutional amendments such as Brown's to the top of the ballot. California voters will be bombarded with a total of 11 questions on the November ballot. Besides raising their taxes, voters will be asked about ending executions, limiting lifetime sentences for career criminals and restricting political contributions.

Brown's campaign spokesman, Dan Newman, urged challengers to cease their "scorched-earth attack on the electoral process" and allow voters to decide this fall.

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