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Labor groups express concern about California budget initiative

May 3, 2012 | 12:11 pm

Bob Hertzberg

Labor groups are mounting a last-ditch effort to dissuade a group of policy wonks and wealthy activists from using the November ballot to try to pass a constitutional amendment to changing California's budget process.

California Forward wants voters to approve limits on new state spending and give the governor sweeping powers to make unilateral changes to the budget. The political-action group said it has collected enough petition signatures to get its initiative on the ballot and plans to start submitting them on Thursday. 

However, negotiations with top Democrats and other interest groups are ongoing, said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the California Forward Action Fund. 

“We recognize the concerns raised by some parties and interests and have worked in earnest to reach a possible compromise,” Salazar said in a statement. He added, “We will stagger our submission through Tuesday or Wednesday of next week to allow the maximum time for negotiations in hopes that a full deal can be reached.” 

If a compromise is brokered, lawmakers would place a less ambitious proposal on the ballot. That would take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, requiring support from Democrats and Republicans. 

The November ballot has been filling up with hot-button initiatives, most notably Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike proposal. Labor groups risk being stretched thin by using their money and manpower in support of the tax plan, as well as to oppose an effort to limit their ability to use members’ dues for political campaigns. 

In an attempt to avoid another costly campaign, a coalition of 52 labor groups and their allies sent a letter to California Forward saying its initiative has “significant flaws” that should be ironed out in negotiations. Included with the Tuesday letter was a draft advertisement with the slogan, “California Forward or California Backward?” 

“Allowing this initiative to continue will force our organizations into forging an opposition campaign,” the letter said. “We would have no choice.”

Photo: Robert Hertzberg, left, is co-chair of California Forward. He is pictured at a 2005 news conference with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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-- Chris Megerian and Anthony York

@chrismegerian and @anthonyyorklat

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