Unions say their political survival hinges on defeating Proposition 32, leaving less financial backing for labor ally Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30.

By Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
October 17, 2012, 3:32 a.m.

SACRAMENTO — Labor unions are unloading tens of millions of dollars against a ballot measure that could limit their political clout in California, but the spending could come at a cost for one of their biggest allies: Gov. Jerry Brown.

The unions are pooling their money to fight Proposition 32, which would eliminate their primary political fundraising tool — paycheck deductions — at the same time Brown is counting on their support for his tax-hike initiative also on the ballot next month.

Polls show support for his measure ebbing as election day nears. But although Brown has signed labor-backed legislation and pushed high-speed rail construction that would create union jobs, there’s only so much money to go around.

“Labor dollars are being stretched,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant who has worked with unions but is not involved in either campaign.

Almost all the nearly $54 million raised to defeat the paycheck measure has come from unions, according to the most recent campaign filings with the state. And unions put up most of the money to gather petition signatures and push for Brown’s measure, contributing about three-fourths of the campaign’s roughly $42 million.

If voters reject the governor’s temporary tax increases, nearly $6 billion is set to be cut from the state budget, mostly from public schools. But unions say their political survival hinges on the outcome of Proposition 32, and that is where they’re sending the bulk of their resources.

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