With his decisions, the California governor risks alienating unions, business groups and other powerful interests whose support he wants for his November tax initiative.

By Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times
September 1, 2012, 11:59 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has spent months persuading some of California’s most powerful interests to invest millions of dollars in his November tax initiative. Now, that drive for campaign cash looms over the Capitol as he considers bills that could profoundly affect his donors.

In picking winners and losers among those with stakes in the slew of proposals sent to him in the legislative session that ended Friday, Brown risks alienating key allies with big checkbooks. With each signature or veto, he also puts at risk his image as an independent, above-the-fray operator dedicated to restoring public confidence in Sacramento.

“His desk is going to be piled high with dilemmas,” said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

The awkward dance between campaigning and governing comes as Brown ramps up efforts to sell voters on his ballot measure — a proposition crucial to fulfilling the promise he made to repair California’s finances. Moreover, the success of his campaign hinges on the continuing support of opposite interests: business and labor.

Deep-pocketed unions, which spent millions of dollars to help get the tax measure, Proposition 30, on the ballot, are backing bids to expand labor rights for housekeepers and create a state-run retirement plan for private-sector workers. Business interests, which have given millions to Brown’s campaign fund and stand to give more, want a $200-million tax credit for film and television productions to be extended.

Brown spokesman Gil Duran said neither Proposition 30 nor the money Brown needs to campaign is a consideration for the governor.

“Each bill is evaluated on its merits,” Duran said. “There is no other factor that enters into it.”

On his biggest priorities, Brown has sought to placate all parties.

Last week he quickly embraced a proposed overhaul of the state’s overburdened public pension system that fell significantly short of his own plan. It promises to save tens of billions of dollars — but won’t eliminate the impending debt, according to pension experts.

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