RIVERSIDE, Calif. -

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors -- with two members abstaining -- voted today to oppose Proposition 30, an initiative introduced by Gov. Jerry Brown to hike sales and income taxes to support deficit reduction and state programs.
      Supervisor Jeff Stone asked for board discussion on the matter. He and
Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione voted to oppose the proposition, while Supervisors Bob Buster and John Benoit declined to take a position publicly.   
      "Proposition 30 raises taxes when citizens are hurting from a bad
economy," Stone said. "A vote for this is a vote to endorse the irresponsible
budgetary and economic policies of the present administration. They get away
with this tax, and you can bet there'll be another one. Before we even consider a tax like this, there should be pension reform, government streamlining and a reduction in the size of the state bureaucracy."
      The California State Association of Counties has thrown its support
behind the measure, but other groups, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers'
Association and the Small Business Action Committee, are urging voters to cast
ballots against it.
      The board has previously talked about both propositions 30 and 38 -- the
latter is another tax hike proposal -- though mainly in the context of the
county budget.
      Prop. 30 calls for a quarter-cent, or 3 percent, increase in sales taxes
on all transactions and elevated personal state income tax rates for
residents earning more than $250,000 a year.
      The proposition includes a provision guaranteeing that so-called
"realignment" funding will be available to counties in the coming years.
Realignment involved shifting many state responsibilities onto localities
beginning last October.
      For instance, counties are now responsible for supervising many paroled
felons and prosecuting them for violations. Convicts who fall into various
"non-violent" categories also now serve their time in county jails instead of
prisons, sometimes for years.
      The Legislature implemented realignment without promising to make good
on future obligations associated with counties taking over state functions.
According to Prop. 30, some of the revenue generated from the higher tax rates would cover those costs.
      "One of the problems with initiatives is that so many issues are mixed
in, it's not a good choice for anybody," Benoit said. "I'm conflicted on this
initiative in a huge way."
      The sales tax hike would be in effect until the end of 2016, while the
higher income tax rates would expire in 2019.
      For individual earners with gross annual incomes between $250,000 and
$300,000, tax rates would rise 1 percent; those with incomes between $300,000
and $500,000 would have to pay 2 percent more; and those earning more than
$500,000 would shoulder a 3 percent increase in what they pay in state taxes.
      According to the Office of the Legislative Analyst, the higher sales and
income tax burdens would net the state an additional $6 billion annually. The
income tax hikes would be retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year.
      Buster refused to state his position on Prop. 30 because he said it
first needed to be vetted by county staff.
      "I think doing this without staff evaluation is unwise," said the supervisor, who is attempting to fend off a challenge from outgoing Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Murrieta.
      Proponents argue the money is needed to help close California's $16
billion deficit and maintain the current level of funding for K-14 education
and the University of California system. Without the hikes, they say, nearly $6
billion in cuts to education and other state programs will be necessary.
      "The state is dysfunctional and does not have a handle on its responsibilities," Stone said. "If you want to perpetuate the dysfunctionality of the state, then you'd want to vote yes on Prop. 30."
      Tavaglione agreed, saying whatever revenue is generated from the tax
hikes will not lift California out of its fiscal morass.
      "It's a mess," he said. "They (lawmakers) hope everything's going to
get better. But that's no way to run a state."