By Len Feldman
When legislators missed a deadline for putting a tax extension measure before the voters in June, CTA quickly switched to Plan B. CTA has begun pressing lawmakers to approve the temporary tax extension themselves to stave off another $12.5 billion in budget cuts, including $2 billion to $4 billion in additional slashes to schools.
“Failing to extend the temporary taxes will deal so much additional damage to our students, our schools, our members, and our state that we cannot afford to wait a moment longer,” declares CTA President David A. Sanchez. “We are calling on lawmakers to pass an extension of the temporary taxes.”
“Schools have already lost nearly $1,900 per student, and the cuts that will occur without the tax extension will mean that school funding will have been cut by more than $18 billion,” Sanchez adds. “Parents, students, educators, and school employees will not stand for that outcome.”
Schools have been decimated by cuts that have resulted in swollen class sizes reaching as many as 40 students in core subjects, the elimination of school nurses and counselors, and the cancellation of art, music, and other subjects that help keep students in school.
More than 20,000 certificated educators and many more education support professionals and other school workers have received layoff notices. Districts must send final layoff notices to certificated staff by May 15.
The Legislature has already adopted by a majority vote a contingency budget that includes $12.5 billion in cuts and assumes voters will approve a temporary tax extension worth another $12.5 billion. State law allows the Legislature to approve a budget on a simple majority vote, but lawmakers must secure a two-thirds supermajority in order to extend taxes or generate other revenues.
Gov. Jerry Brown sought to expedite the budget process by urging lawmakers to have a new, balanced spending plan in place within 60 days of the start of his administration. The governor’s proposal was based on legislators’ sending a tax extension ballot measure to the voters for their action in June, prior to the July 1 start of the new state fiscal year.
While all Democratic lawmakers in both houses supported the tax extension ballot measure, the governor and legislative leaders were not able to persuade just two Republican lawmakers in the Senate and two in the Assembly to support the tax extension.
Gov. Brown called off the talks with five Republican legislators who could have provided the needed votes when they engaged in regressive bargaining, bringing a wide range of anti-educator and anti-union proposals to the table. These last-minute add-ons would have gutted educator pensions and undermined other vital protections.
With the refusal of Republican lawmakers to provide the needed votes for the tax extension, the Legislature and the governor are working against the budget deadlines set by the state constitution. Under its terms, the Legislature must send the governor a spending plan by June 15. The constitution gives the governor until June 30 to sign the final spending plan, which takes effect the next day.
The next major step in the process should come around May 10, when the governor is expected to release his updated revenue and expenditure estimates — the “May Revision.” In a normal year, this revision marks the beginning of a frenzied sprint toward a final spending plan.
This year, CTA and its Education Coalition partners — together representing more than 1 million parents, students, educators, school employees, administrators and school board members — are redoubling their efforts to protect school funding. CTA will address the “State of Emergency” with a series of actions — including ones taking place at the state Capitol — designed to keep pressing legislators to provide schools with the desperately needed funds to prevent the massive layoffs and program disruptions that are sure to follow another $12.5 billion in cuts.