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SEIU pushes for oil, tobacco, liquor taxes

June 10, 2009 |  2:29 pm

The state’s biggest labor union is launching a $1-million TV advertising campaign promoting new taxes on the oil, tobacco and liquor industries in hopes of dissuading lawmakers from adopting the deep social services cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Republican lawmakers and Schwarzenegger have vowed not to raise taxes to bridge the state’s projected $24-billion deficit, but officials with the Service Employees International Union hope the 30-second TV ad being aired around the state will drum up support for higher levies on certain industries.

The governor wants to eliminate the state’s welfare-to-work program, health insurance for the working poor and student grants, among other programs.

“The governor’s proposed cuts-only budget will destroy the California we know,” said Eliseo Medina, SEIU executive vice president.

SEIU hopes to reverse deep cuts aimed at the state’s 300,000 home-care health workers, many of them members of the union. Schwarzenegger and Republicans came away from last month’s special-election drubbing saying they were convinced that voters, who defeated a slate of budget-related ballot measures, had delivered a stout anti-tax message.

The union says that a poll it conducted after the election found that voters, though still smarting from a recent boost in the sales tax and other state fees, would support higher levies on some industries. The union would like to see a nearly 10% charge on oil pumped from California, saying it might generate around $1 billion from the oil industry, along with tax hikes on alcohol and cigarettes.

Those businesses contributed more than $2 million to the campaign in support of the ballot measures. In coming weeks, Medina said, the union will poll again to determine if public support for corporate tax hikes has grown.

Ultimately, he said, SEIU’s hope is to persuade enough Republicans in each house to join with the majority Democrats for the two-thirds legislative vote required for tax increases. Several of the half-dozen GOP lawmakers who voted for tax increases in February have been targeted with recall campaigns.

“We hope to coalesce enough public support to show these guys [Republican lawmakers] that they shouldn’t be afraid,” Medina said.

-- Eric Bailey in Sacramento