SACRAMENTO . (AP) — The politically influential California Nurses Association on Thursday announced its support for Gov. Jerry Brown's November tax initiative and handed over a $1 million contribution to his campaign.
Brown's initiative would temporarily raise the state sales tax by a half cent for five years and increase income taxes for people who make more than $250,000 a year for seven years to help balance the state budget.
The Democratic governor told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the nurses' support is critical because the union can mobilize thousands of nurses for the campaign.
"The activism of the nurses will be very crucial to a victory in November," he said.
The union was a strong supporter of Brown in his 2010 gubernatorial race, staging animated rallies in which people dressed as royalty mocked his wealthy Republican opponent, Meg Whitman.
Recent revelations that the state Department of Parks and Recreation had underreported the amount of money in two of its special funds by nearly $54 million should not affect the fate of the tax initiative, Brown said. He had the same opinion of the news that the state Legislature had granted generous pay raises to more than 1,000 staffers.
He said the initiative stands on its own merits.
"Either we get more money for the schools or we have to cut back the schools. It's an either/or proposition," Brown said Thursday. "It's not in relation to any other proposition or any politician or any other topic of state government. ...
"It's the only time I've really seen where you vote yes and $6 billion to $9 billion goes to schools and balances our budget, or three weeks of school disappear and the universities and the state colleges lose billions."
The $91.3 billion budget Brown signed into law in June includes $6 billion in automatic cuts that would take effect if voters reject his initiative. The cuts would include a shortened school year and less money for local law enforcement. Steep fee increases at the University of California and California State University systems also would be likely.
Brown's ballot initiative has raised nearly $7.5 million since last year. Before the contribution from the nurses union, the committee reported that it had about $5 million in the bank.
Opponents of the tax initiative, led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, have collected just $85,000 and have about $57,000 in debt.
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the nurses union, said she believes raising more tax revenue will help end some of the "phenomenal suffering" in California.
"This is kind of billionaires against the rest of us. That's what it's come down to — a real polarized nation, a polarized state," she said.
The union also plans to campaign against Proposition 32, the so-called "paycheck protection" initiative that would prohibit unions and companies from collecting dues on paychecks for political activity.