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California Teachers Go After Corporate Tax Breaks

The always formidable California Teachers Association has got tax breaks for corporations in its sights. And the union has plans to wage its fight in that most California of ways: at the ballot box.

Union leaders announced yesterday that they have collected nearly twice as many signatures as required by law to qualify their "Repeal Corporate Tax Loopholes Act" initiative for the November ballot. The California Secretary of State's office must still formally qualify the measure that the union says would nullify a series of tax breaks that cost the state $2 billion in annual revenue.

CTA is motivated by the devastating budget cuts made to public schools over the last two years as California lawmakers have grappled with eye-popping budget shortfalls. The union gathered more than 800,000 signatures for its measure; only 433,971 are needed for ballot qualification, CTA officials said.

The timing of their announcement is important.

Tomorrow, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be unveiling the "May revise" of his proposed budget for fiscal 2011. With a $20 billion gap to close, educators are bracing for more cuts. And the deadline for school districts to notify teachers that they will be laid off is Saturday. The union has said as many as 25,000 teachers' jobs are in peril.

If the ballot initiative gets the green light from Secretary of State Debra Bowen, we can expect that CTA will spare no expense in making sure it passes.

Of course, the CTA and its union brethren will have to pony up lots of money for Democrat Jerry Brown's gubernatorial campaign against one of two uber-wealthy Republican opponents. And there's also the state schools chief race, which the union can't afford to stay out of either. Looks like this is going to be a very busy, very expensive election season for CTA.

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