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Super committee and California: Can they each break through dysfunction?

The nation's capital and the capital of the nation's most populous state both seem dysfunctional. But even as the congressional super committee looks set to fail, a bipartisan group of high-profile Californians is readying ballot initiatives to reengineer state government, including tax reform.

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Small- and medium-size businesses are the backbone of the California economy. Unlike large corporations, their profits and losses are “passed through” and taxed at the personal income tax rate. Therefore, a cut in personal income taxes will boost job-creating business prospects. Further, California’s corporate tax, one of the highest in the nation, would be reduced to make the state competitive with other states and foster an improved business climate.

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Bipartisanship is hard work. The committee did not come to its conclusions lightly.

In our deliberations, we have been served by the unprecedented collaboration of some of the best minds in California with decades of experience in state government. These advisors include former Republican and Democratic state directors of finance, Mike Genest and Tim Gage – often at partisan loggerheads in past years. The committee also heard from dozens of other expert witnesses from labor, business, and social services. Over the course of our year-long deliberations, we met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown.

We weighed alternative plans out there – further raising the income tax on the rich or further slashing the budget and insisting on no new tax revenues. Many of us were sympathetic with one or the other of these approaches. But they simply do not face up to the real issues and solve the long-term problems of the state.

The Think Long Committee was not appointed by any official or sponsored by any special interest lobby. We came together only as an independent group of concerned citizens who believe in California’s promise and who want to get the state back on the right track.

We will seek to qualify our plan in two initiatives and place them before the public on the November 2012 ballot. We have made our best effort in good faith and hope the public agrees. It will be up to the voters of California to decide.

Nicolas Berggruen is chair of the Think Long Committee for California. Nathan Gardels is a senior advisor to the group.

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