The head of the California Teachers Association said Tuesday he wants state leaders to drop Gov. Jerry Brown's idea of asking voters to extend higher taxes and instead approve the taxes themselves in the Capitol.
"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," said CTA President David Sanchez 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 had been counting on significant financial backing from CTA, the state's largest teachers union, to support his campaign for five years of higher taxes on vehicles, sales and income. The Democratic governor built his budget so the taxes would ensure K-12 schools avoid cuts.
Sanchez's remarks suggest a split in strategy between Brown and his labor partners. The Democratic governor has insisted he will hold true to his campaign pledge not to raise taxes without a vote of the people.
Besides having concerns about the mood of the electorate, school leaders are nervous about the election idea because they want to know their funding level before the 2011-12 school year starts, and an election in September or later would undermine that.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez moved in the same direction as CTA on Tuesday during a Capitol press conference on the budget. He suggested that because it was too late to call a June tax election, the Legislature should focus on approving taxes in the Capitol on a two-thirds vote - which requires at least two Republicans in each house.
Pérez stopped short of swearing off an election; he said that he remains open to one option of extending taxes temporarily in the Capitol and then asking voters to "ratify" them for a longer period. But he suggested his preference is to find support of straight tax extensions in the Capitol.
"Because the June special election is no longer an option, the Assembly will be seeking new revenues through a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to help close the remainder of the deficit by June 15," the speaker said.
Of Brown's campaign pledge, Pérez said, "First of all, I'm not the governor and I didn't make that promise." The speaker called the governor's efforts "admirable" but said "Republicans ran out the clock on that option. So now the only option for public expression of their position, with respect to this vote, would be after the fact as a ratification and a continuation action."
The speaker was apparently referring to an idea floated last week by the Democratic governor. Under the plan, two-thirds of the Legislature would extend higher taxes on sales and vehicles temporarily past June, followed by a special election in which voters would decide whether to keep those taxes. It is not clear how the governor would treat income tax under such a plan, since the state's income tax surcharge and smaller tax credit law expired at the end of 2010.
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."