Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sacramento Bee: Calif. Teachers Assoc. Nervous On Budget Timing

Brown's Countdown, Day 94: Teachers seek tax hike without an election

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Gov. Jerry Brown faced growing pressure Tuesday to raise taxes without asking voters, which would require him to break his campaign pledge.

The head of the California Teachers Association, David Sanchez, said Tuesday that state leaders should extend higher sales, vehicle and income taxes through a legislative vote rather than passing the question to the electorate.

The governor and lawmakers approved $11.2 billion in budget solutions last month that included health and welfare cuts. Democrats want to solve most of the remaining $15.4 billion deficit with taxes.

Brown sought a June tax election, but he could not get two Republicans in each house to put it on the ballot.

"I believe that as much as our governor has been extremely transparent and honest in doing what he told folks he'd do – which is let the people decide – it's too late for that," Sanchez said in a phone interview.

"Once you put it on the ballot after June, it's no longer an extension, it becomes new taxes. And once they're new taxes, the people won't support that. I think the Legislature ought to do that themselves."

Brown is counting on significant financial backing from CTA, the state's largest teachers union, to support his campaign for five years of higher taxes. The Democratic governor insisted Tuesday that he will not raise taxes without a vote.

Brown said of CTA, "They're a constructive force, and I will work with them. But whether it's the business community or teachers or people in the bureaucracy, we agree some times and other times we don't."

School leaders are nervous because they do not want their funding contingent on an election that takes place after classes begin.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, likewise called for the Legislature to approve taxes on a two-thirds vote. But he said he is open to a plan Brown floated last week: Asking voters to "ratify" tax rates after he and the Legislature approve the extensions.

Asked about the Brown idea, Sanchez said, "Off the top of my head, I'm not really wild about that, either. We need to extend the taxes four to five years, and let's be done with it."

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, wondered how Democrats would find two GOP votes for taxes.

"If they couldn't get two members to vote to put the extensions on the ballot, what makes them think they're going to get two to raise taxes directly?" he asked.

Pérez said the Assembly would hold a series of "summits" around the state to discuss the budget. The speaker called on Republicans to offer their own plan by May 1.

Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, said her caucus would provide more budget ideas in the months ahead.

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