The California Teachers Association officially agreed Sunday to back Gov. Jerry Brown's multibillion-dollar tax plan, which should provide the governor hefty financial support for his fall campaign.
The union represents 325,000 teachers and education workers, and it is a heavy hitter in state politics. Brown is gathering signatures for a November initiative to raise sales taxes by a half-cent and income taxes on high income earners. He has structured his budget so that schools would face a $2.4 billion program cut in 2012-13 if voters reject his proposal, which he says is equal to three weeks off the school year.
The Democratic governor now has support from the state's two most powerful public employee unions in CTA and the Service Employees International Union State Council. SEIU has not made its support public, but CTA President Dean E. Vogel told his members on Saturday that "SEIU State Council has already taken a support position," according to a text of his speech.
SEIU spokesman Michael Cox said Sunday his organization has not taken a public position. But sources besides Vogel confirmed SEIU has privately agreed to support Brown. The governor has been working for weeks to convince other tax proponents to step aside, knowing that voters are less inclined to support any tax plan if faced with multiple options.
CTA's State Council, a group of nearly 800 union leaders, voted today in Los Angeles to back the governor's plan. The union's support had been expected for weeks, but it took the State Council to make it official. Some members advocated for competing plans, such as a "Millionaires Tax" proposed by a separate union, the California Federation of Teachers. But CTA ultimately got behind the governor's plan.
"It is way past time for a tax increase, and we must help lead the way in getting a revenue package approved," Vogel said Saturday.
The CFT proposal would raise taxes only on Californians earning at least $1 million as either single or joint filers. The $4 billion to $6 billion it would raise annually would flow outside the state's general fund to schools and local governments, but it may not help solve the state's deficit.
In his speech, Vogel called the CFT plan "the most progressive of the proposals ... But as it is written, there are some unintended consequences. This initiative doesn't help close the current budget deficit and does not pay for the local realignment. There also another big issue: It doesn't help restore program cuts to essential services."