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As Democrats scramble to find a new budget course after talks collapsed this week, the California Federation of Teachers is calling for a 1 percent tax hike on the top 1 percent of earners as part of a state budget solution.

The union estimates the tax hike would raise an estimated $2.5 billion as the state faces a remaining $15.4 billion deficit, said spokesman Steve Hopcraft. The proposal would hike taxes by 1 percent on personal income above $500,000. CFT represents 120,000 teachers and school employees at all levels, including the University of California.

To back its efforts, CFT commissioned research by private pollster Ben Tulchin which shows 78 percent of voters strongly or somewhat support such an income tax hike. Respondents were asked whether they would back that idea "in order to balance the budget and prevent deeper cuts to services."

It's highly unlikely such a proposal would gain the necessary two-thirds vote of the Legislature, as Republicans and leading business groups have opposed targeted tax hikes. But Democrats could attempt to place it on a future ballot with a majority vote or labor unions could gather signatures for an initiative.

Asked whether CFT would pursue an initiative, Hopcraft said, "We are not making that announcement today, however we have a history of participating with other like-minded advocates in ballot measure campaigns. Today at this point we are calling for it to be part of the package."

According to the Franchise Tax Board, the top 1 percent of earners provided 42.8 percent of California personal income tax revenues in 2008. Critics have warned that targeting high income earners has made California's tax system too volatile, as the Wall Street Journal wrote Saturday.


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