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So If There's a Special Election, When Would It Be?

By Jeff Hudson - June 2, 2011

There has been lots of talk in Sacramento lately about the need for an extension of existing temporary taxes, which will expire this month. The alternative would be another round of state budget cuts, with K-12 education expected to take another $5 billion hit.

However, different figures in the state budget debate have taken different positions in terms of when and how the existing temporary taxes should be extended.

Here’s a short list, intended to help educators keep track of who is favoring what.

Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, last week called on legislators to approve an extension of temporary tax measures that are about to expire. “It’s time for the Legislature to grow up and pass a budget,” Wells said. “Putting it off until a special election isn’t what they were elected to do.”

David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, said recently that “CTA continues to call for an extension of the temporary taxes approved in 2009 in order to keep our economy on track; to restore much needed jobs; and to prevent further drastic cuts to public education, public safety, health care, and other essential services. Our schools and colleges simply can't wait for a fall election to figure out their budgets. We call on all lawmakers to approve a state budget now that protects our schools, colleges and communities.”

Gov. Jerry Brown called earlier this year for a special election sometime in June to give California voters the opportunity to vote yes (or no) on an extension of the temporary taxes, which are also part of Brown’s May Budget Revision. However, Brown’s proposed ballot proposition never made it onto the ballot. Brown now advocates for a special election as soon as possible, which could mean September, or perhaps November. In the meantime, Brown wants legislators to pass a short-term extension of the temporary taxes, to cover the period from July 1 until an election sometime in the fall.

Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the Democratic leader in the Senate, wants a one-year extension of the temporary taxes that will expire this month. He advocates an election in 2012, which would give California voters the opportunity to approve a further extension of the temporary taxes, perhaps for four years.  If the temporary taxes aren’t extended by the California Legislature, then Steinberg may press ahead with SB 653, a bill that would allow local school districts to impose local taxes (if supported by a two-thirds majority of local voters). See an analysis of SB 653 elsewhere in this week’s EdBrief.

Assembly Speaker John Pérez wants the Legislature to approve some sort of extension of temporary taxes this month, but has also indicated that he’s willing to put the matter before California voters for “ratification” at some date in the future.

Mac Taylor, California’s Legislative Analyst, recommended in a recent report that any special election regarding an extension of temporary taxes be held late in the 2011-12 fiscal year – which means sometime in spring 2012.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has suggested that if a special election is scheduled so that voters can vote on an extension of temporary taxes, the Legislature also needs to designate a list of spending cuts that would be triggered if voters reject the tax extension. Otherwise, Lockyer warned, the state would have trouble arranging short-term borrowing to pay the bills.

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