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Ten Assembly Democrats have spent nearly $200,000 in state funds sending more than a half-million fliers to constituents touting the benefits of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's "middle-class scholarship" legislation, records show.

The fliers ask residents to sign a postcard supporting Pérez's proposal, which needs a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature for passage, requiring Democrats to solicit at least two other votes in each house.

Pérez's legislation would alter corporate tax law to raise about a billion dollars, which would bankroll scholarships intended to cut by 66 percent the cost of attending college for a student from a middle-class family earning less than $150,000 a year.

California Employers Against Higher Taxes, opposing the proposal, contends it would raise taxes on multistate companies by requiring them to calculate total tax liability based on the portion of their sales in California.

By seizing on an issue of statewide concern, the rising cost of a college education, the Assembly's postcards could pay dual political dividends by helping Democrats lobby Republicans and promote themselves in an election year.

The 10 Assembly Democrats spent $59,825 to print and $124,156 to mail 601,539 of the fliers to constituents in March and April, records show.

Besides Pérez, the fliers were sent by Michael Allen of Santa Rosa; Toni Atkins, San Diego; Marty Block, San Diego; Bob Blumenfield, Woodland Hills, Susan Bonilla, Concord; Chuck Calderon, Whittier; Roger Dickinson, Sacramento; Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles; and Das Williams, Santa Barbara.

Of the 10, Dickinson mailed the most fliers, 112,207, while Block sent the fewest, 20,272, records show.

Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Pérez, said the "middle-class scholarship" plan is a "signature piece of legislation that he thinks is critical at this time."

"Clearly, students are bearing the brunt of increased fees at colleges and universities across California, and the dream of a college education is becomingly increasingly unaffordable for many middle-class students," Swanson said.

But Peter DeMarco, spokesman for the coalition opposing Pérez's two-bill package, Assembly Bills 1500 and 1501, said that raising taxes on multistate firms could force reductions in jobs that college students hope to acquire someday.

"We want students who graduate in California to stay and work here," DeMarco said. "But if there aren't jobs available for them by virtue of actions taken by the Legislature to drive jobs out of California, the unfortunate reality is that middle-class scholarships won't lead to middle-class jobs."

The coalition opposing Pérez's proposal includes Chrysler, General Motors, International Paper, Kimberly-Clark, and Procter & Gamble.


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