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CTA Leader, Speaker Pérez Cooling on Statewide Ballot Measure in Fall, Now Seek Legislative Budget Solution

By Jeff Hudson - April 14, 2011

Two major participants in the ongoing tussle over the state budget repositioned themselves on Tuesday – even as Governor Jerry Brown was speaking up and down the state, trying to drum up support for a statewide ballot measure sometime in the fall that would be designed to extend certain sales and income taxes.  Most political observers agree that it’s now much too late to schedule such a ballot measure for the month of June, which had been Brown’s original goal.

David Sanchez, the outgoing president of the California Teacher’s Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle “If the Governor were to propose an election say in September or November, it no longer becomes a question of extending the current taxes. It then becomes a question of raising taxes, which would be extremely more difficult and challenging (for) voters to pass.”

Sanchez made a very similar statement to the Sacramento Bee, saying “Once you put it on the ballot after June, it’s no longer an extension . . . once they’re new taxes, the people won’t support that. I think the Legislature ought to do that themselves.”

Sanchez, who will be termed out as CTA president in mid-summer, appears to be indicating that he wants the Legislature to approve some kind of limited-term tax extension before July 1 – in time to allow school districts to build revenue from such a tax extension into their budget assumptions, allowing those districts to rescind layoff notices to teachers (many of whom are CTA members).

This change in stance by the CTA is politically significant, since any statewide ballot proposition would likely rely on CTA members to help with the “leg work” in local precincts, as well as donations from the CTA to pay for advertising.

Assembly Speaker John Pérez, who is politically close to labor groups, likewise appeared to be taking a new position in remarks at a press conference in the state capitol.

“Because the June special election is no longer an option, the Assembly will be seeking new revenues through a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to help close the remainder of the deficit by June 15,” Pérez said.

Achieving a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature, however, would involve making some kind of deal with several Republican legislators – several of whom have indicated that they want to see changes in state pensions, spending and regulations as part of any negotiated deal that would include tax extensions as part of the state budget.

Brown, for his part, spent the week speaking in destinations as diverse as Riverside (a Republican stronghold) and San Francisco (where Democrats dominate the political landscape). Brown focused many of his remarks on Republicans who want an “all cuts” solution-- i.e. a balanced budget achieved entirely through program cuts (without tax extensions or new taxes). Brown said that these Republicans were indulging in “magical thinking.”

Brown is attempting to live up to a campaign promise that he would not impose new taxes without a vote from the people. He has spoken recently of a plan under which two-thirds of the Legislature would act by summer to extend sales taxes and vehicle taxes on a temporary basis, with a fall election to follow in which voters would either ratify the Legislature’s actions, or overturn the tax extensions.

But that proposal drew a less than enthusiastic response from Sanchez, who told the Sacramento Bee “I’m not really wild about that. We need to extend the taxes four to five years, and let’s be done with it.”

Editor's Note:  Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.