Prop 1B promises rainy day funds to schools

May 5, 2009 8:46:14 PM PDT
Two weeks from Tuesday, California voters will be asked to decide six ballot measures to help balance the state budget. The centerpiece is Proposition 1A, which would put a cap on state spending and extend a temporary increase in the sales tax, the income tax and car registration fees for an extra two years and create a rainy day fund with the extra money. If 1A passes, Proposition 1B promises the initial $1.5 billion of the rainy day fund would go to schools.

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The backers of Prop 1B say it simply restores money that has been cut from education - $9.3 billion in all.

Opponents have been largely silent. In fact, there is no argument against 1B in the ballot information booklet; nobody submitted one.

The argument for Prop 1B is that California schools have been hit hard by the state budget crisis, losing money guaranteed under a previous ballot measure that set minimum funding levels. The California Teachers Association says Prop 1B starts the process of paying it back.

"And under this ballot initiative, it allows it to be repaid back to the schools, not right away, but a couple of years from now, once the economy improves," California Teachers Association spokesperson David Sanchez said.

Including 1B was also smart politics, says education lobbyist Kevin Gordon.

"If they had done anything to alienate the education community in crafting this ballot measure, they would've had an avalanche of opposition and it would've doomed the whole thing to failure," Gordon said.

That happened once before in 2005 when Gov. Schwarzenegger pushed a package of propositions. The teachers association led a $100 million campaign in opposition and every proposition was defeated.

"It's a lesson that wasn't lost on the leadership this time and they made sure that the teachers association was not going to be angry," Sacramento Bee reporter Shane Goldmacher said.

Goldmacher has been writing on how money and political clout shaped the propositions. When a proposed 9.9 percent oil severance tax was cut from the proposition package, energy companies gave more than $1 million in support, led by a $500,000 contribution from chevron.

A proposal to increase alcohol taxes was also shelved when the alcohol industry, led by Gallo Winery and the California Beer Distributors, kicked in their checks.

The California Teachers Association, which will benefit from the $9.3 billion in Prop 1B, has contributed $7 million.

"The problem is, in a scarce environment, dollars out of the pocket of the nurses goes to the teachers and vice versa; it's a zero sum game," ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain said.

Cain says that is why the California Nurses Association and the Service Employees International Union oppose Prop 1B.

"It's one of these things where they may be Democratic unions, but when it comes to the money, their interests are on separate sides," Cain said.

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