Business Yes, Nurses No on Budget Measures

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Ever so slowly, different interest groups around California are starting to sort out how they feel about the six budget-related measures on the May 19 ballot.

And add two noteworthy groups to the list: the California Nurses Association as a 'no' vote and the Bay Area Council as a 'yes' vote on Propositions 1A-1F.

First, the nurses. Perhaps no group has been more of a thorn in the side of Governor Schwarzenegger through the years than the nurses' union. From their visible role in the campaign against Schwarzenegger's 2005 special election initiatives to their quest for state-operated universal health care (vetoed in the past by the governor), the union has been no fan of the Republican governor.

On Thursday, the leadership of CNA's members voted to oppose the six ballot measures, with representatives saying they plan to take a vocal, and visible, role in the next few weeks.

Meantime, the Schwarzenegger-sponsored political campaign in support of the six measures announced today an endorsement from the Bay Area Council, the business-centric public policy organization that is the impetus behind calls for a constitutional convention. Last week, Schwarzenegger made it quite clear that he supports the first convening of a state constitutional convention in some 150 years... a way to focus on multiple ideas for government reform at one time.

These two announcements certainly play to the idea of another "business vs. labor" narrative in California politics. Another possible fuel for that storyline comes in a $250,000 donation to the pro-budget measure committee on Friday by wealthy Orange County developer Henry Segerstrom. The donation from one of his companies is easily his largest campaign contribution in recent years, which saw smaller checks written to both the guv's 2006 reelection efforts and to the California Republican Party.

But on the union side of the equation, the biggest political dollars are controlled by organizations that haven't quite yet sorted out their stances on the ballot measures. And tops on that list is the California Teachers Association. While the CTA has taken an early position in support of the education finance measure Proposition 1B, it's not yet weighed in on the other measures.

And the CTA's big dilemma rests with the Prop 1A spending limit/cap -- a measure they may philosophically oppose for its constraints on future state spending, but must be approved by voters for Prop 1B and its $9 billion for public schools to go into effect.

In other words, if teachers campaign help defeat Prop 1A... then Prop 1B is null and void, even if the voters approve it.

The special election may not seem right around the corner (nine weeks tomorrow), but the timing is awfully tight for those who intend to spend money in hopes of influencing the voters.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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