Unions hope for tax plan as budget options dwindle

California Governor Jerry Brown

March 30, 2011 6:36:03 PM PDT
As Gov. Jerry Brown concedes defeat in his efforts to get his tax extension measure on the June ballot for voters to decide, those in line for painful cuts are reacting.

After budget talks broke down, dozens of disabled patients are now scared. With no hope for a June special election asking voters to renew temporary tax hikes that might save their care homes and other government services, another $13 billion or more in budget cuts has suddenly become very real.

"We're not asking that people live in condominiums here. We're just asking the basic food and shelter for people who can't provide me for themselves," father of disabled daughter Martin Weil said.

Teachers across California are nervous today too. Public schools are expected to take the brunt of budget ax in an all-cuts scenario, making it unlikely thousands of pink slips will be cancelled

"We'll increase class sizes at all levels. We'll lose librarians. We'll lose counselors. Athletic programs will be cut further. Our district will be unrecognizable," first grade teacher Tom Gardner said.

Democrats say they'll find a way to avoid an all-cuts budget, but all of the options are problematic, including one that tests legal waters.

Voters approved an initiative allowing state budgets to be passed by simple majority. But anything requiring taxes is still supposed have a two-thirds vote. The Legislature's attorney said that's not true, and that Democrats can go around Republicans.

Brown is reluctant to take that route. The California Labor Federation is thinking about a citizen initiative, asking for taxes on a November ballot.

"We have to figure out a way to keep the state from imploding," Art Pulaski from the California Labor Federation said.

By November, though, the taxes might be a tough sell. The temporary taxes will expire by then, and they'll have to be called new tax hikes.

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