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Concern About "Circular Firing Squad"

Three Competing Ballot Propositions to Fund Education Moving Into Petition Phase

February 9, 2012

Governor Brown is apparently making little headway in his efforts to get backers of ballot propositions that would compete with the Governor’s proposed November ballot measure to consider abandoning their efforts and endorse the Governor’s plan.

The Governor did win one major endorsement this week. The CTA State Council of Education, comprised of nearly 800 democratically elected educators from across the state, endorsed the governor’s tax plan at their quarterly meeting in Los Angeles on February 8. Dean E.Vogel, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, said:

“Educators know that California cannot continue to cut its way out of ongoing budget problems. We also know that not everyone in California is paying their fair share, and that’s why we are supporting the governor’s tax proposal, which taxes the wealthiest Californians in order to bring additional revenue to our schools, colleges and other essential public services.

“The governor’s initiative is the only initiative that provides additional revenues for our classrooms and closes the state budget deficit, and guarantees local communities will receive funds to pay for the realignment of local health and public safety services that the Legislature approved last year. It’s time to put California back on track and this initiative is the best way to do that.  It’s the right choice for our students and their families, our communities and our state.”

Meanwhile, the California Federation of Teachers kicked off a drive this week in support of what they call the Millionaires Tax – a different proposed initiative. Banners went up on freeway overpasses during commute hours today in nine locations around California, including San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento, Costa Mesa, San Diego, Richmond, and Davis.  The banners marked the launch of paid signature gathering to place the Millionaires Tax on the November 2012 ballot.  Along with CFT activists, friends from other unions and community organizations held the banners aloft to thousands of cars, and reported "tons" of favorable honks and hand waving.

Meanwhile, attorney and activist Molly Munger is not backing down in her effort to qualify a ballot measure that would hike taxes to provide more money to schools and early education programs.

Munger  has already put $800,000 of her own cash into a campaign committee for the initiative. She said this week that she is ready to spend more.

"We're going to get this on the ballot and we're going to win," she told reporters in Sacramento.

Munger outlined her proposal, called “Our Children, Our Future,” which would raise an estimated $10 billion annually by increasing state income tax rates for most Californians, at an address at a Sacramento California State PTA conference, which is backing her measure.

She framed her tax proposal, which would sunset after 12 years without reauthorization by voters, as the best way to make sure schools and other early education programs receive the funding they need to serve children throughout the state. The bulk of the tax dollars raised under her proposal would go directly to school districts and early childhood development programs, creating a revenue stream that would come on top of school funding levels dictated by Proposition 98. One version of the initiative language, which she said she is leaning toward pursuing, would use some of those revenues to repay bond debt for the first several years.

The proposal, which the campaign calls "Our Children, Our Future: Local Schools and Early Education Investment Act" is expected to be cleared for signature gathering next week.

Gov. Brown tried to clear the field of these two competing proposed tax measures vying for a spot on the 2012 ballot, a move he believes will increase the chance of passage of his own proposal to increase income and sales taxes for budget relief. Munger told reporters that while she has not spoken directly to the governor, her polling shows her measure can pass even with the other proposals in the picture.

Brown's top political adviser, Steve Glazer, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the probable impact of multiple measures is that all would receive diminished support, something he compared to a circular firing squad. He said the governor would continue trying to persuade them to drop their bids, but there is not much he can do.

Editor's Note:  Governorís Press Office, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers.