warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Propositions 30 And 32 Leave California Unions Stretched Thin

Aaron Liu |
October 25, 2012 | 7:06 p.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

Sketchy public support for Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to raise taxes for education -- Proposition 30 -- has raised questions about whether California unions have diverted too much of their attention to fighting the less-popular anti-union measure Proposition 32.

A new poll shows support for Proposition 30 -- which will raise sales- and high-income taxes to plug a $6 billion hole in the state’s education fund -- hovering below 50 percent. Meanwhile, opposition to Proposition 32, which would bar unions from using union dues for political reasons, has overtaken support for the measure, 53 to 39 percent.

“The polling is really tight right now,” said Frank Wells, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association, which supports Proposition 30 and opposes Proposition 32. “We’re really close to the 50 percent line but we’re not there.”

Opponents of Proposition 30 are confident the measure will fail at the polls on Nov. 6.

“It would be unprecedented for a ‘yes’ vote on taxes to reverse the tailspin,” said Aaron McLear, a spokesperson for No on Prop 30.

Failure to pass Prop. 30 will trigger an avalanche of automatic cuts to education, which has already been stripped bare by years of back-to-back cuts.

"If it fails we’re going to get over $6 billion in mid-year cuts," said Wells. "That’s during the school year."

Did the fight against Proposition 32 hinder Proposition 30 chances? Both campaigns have roughly the same amount of funds; funding for Proposition 30 levels out at $48 million, while opponents of Proposition 32 have collected $51 million to fight the measure. Yet the newest statistics show that voters are solidly opposed to the anti-union measure and unsure of passing Brown’s proposal, leading to questions whether unions have allocated their funds wisely. As Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters tweeted:

“A thought from new polls: Prop 32 will probably die, but by diverting millions of union dollars, it may have succeeded in defeating Prop. 30.”

Indeed a number of teachers unions have spent more dollars in their fight against Proposition 32 than for Proposition 30. In particular, the California Teachers Association has contributed more-than $20 million to fight Proposition 32, almost three times the amount they have put towards directly promoting Brown’s education proposal. The California Federation of Teachers, which has contributed more than $250,000 to defeat Proposition 32, has contributed less-than $20,000 directly to the campaign for the governor’s plan.

“Proposition 30 and Proposition 32 are both important, but for the long range implications on the political landscape in California, 32 is going to have huge repercussions, whereas 30 is more dedicated specifically to education at this point,“ said Wells.

Wells emphasized that while both fronts are important, opposing Proposition 32 has more implications for the quality of education in the long-run. He explained that Proposition 32 would bar unions from fighting for measures like Proposition 30 in the first place.

“As far as we’re concerned, Proposition 32 is the whole ball game,” he added.

Yes on Prop 30 spokesman Dan Newman played down the issue.

"Labor continues to be a tremendous and tireless advocate for Prop 30," he said in an email.

Both McLear and Wells discredited the notion that lack-of-funding was the reason for Proposition 30’s dismal numbers.

“'Yes' on Prop 30 has a five-to-one spending advantage than 'no,'” said McLear. “They have 48 million -- we have 10.”

Wells argued that the fight against Proposition 32 has drawn the support of all unions in California, while support for Proposition 30 has only invited the support of teachers unions. He also speculated that Proposition 38 -- a measure proposed by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger which also looks to increase education funding through tax increases -- may be spoiling Brown’s proposal.

“I think it is pulling away some of the support," he said. "It’s too bad there are two on the ballot.”

Will the CTA allocate more funds for Proposition 30 before election day?

“Obviously, if 32 looks like it’s going down in flames, we might turn around and shift some resources,” Wells added. “Right now we’re pushing both has hard as we can.”


Reach reporter Aaron Liu here. Follow him on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.