State workers unions say they'll oppose California measure

SACRAMENTO — A powerful California public employee union formed a campaign committee Monday with two other labor groups to oppose Proposition 1A, a May 19 ballot measure that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders have said will solve future budget problems.

Service Employees International Union's California State Council, which says it represents 700,000 workers, has teamed up with the California Faculty Association and the California Federation of Teachers to form a committee opposing Proposition 1A. The ballot measure would limit state spending in good fiscal years, diverting money to a "rainy-day fund." But it also would extend $16 billion worth of temporary tax increases on sales, income and vehicles to 2013.

"Prop 1A won't be able to do what its supporters claim," said Marty Hittleman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, in a statement. "This constitutional amendment, supported by the governor and legislators was developed with no public scrutiny and won't stop the budget chaos. Once voters read this proposal with their own eyes, they will see that it is flawed and overly complicated, and will give extraordinary new and unrestricted power to the governor and his political appointees, with no checks and balances."

State leaders included the temporary tax hike extensions in Proposition 1A in part to discourage groups like SEIU from fighting the measure at the ballot. By restraining public spending, the measure could limit the expansion of the public-sector jobs that the labor unions forming the committee represent.

The unions, in their Monday announcement, twice mentioned the $16 billion in tax hikes, which are considered to be the measure's greatest vulnerability among voters. Such labor groups find themselves unusual allies with anti-tax groups who typically fight union causes.

"This is disappointing," said Julie Soderlund, spokeswoman for Budget Reform Now, proponents of the six budget-related ballot measures. "Since those who we hurt the most should Propositions 1A thru 1F not pass will be teachers, schools and the hard working families of SEIU. During these tough economic times, it is unfair to do anything that will likely cost many people their jobs."

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