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Prop 32: Pro, Con And Where The Money Is Coming From

Chris Cate, vice president of the San Diego Taxpayers Association, and Jim Groth, a Chula Vista teacher and member of the board of directors of the California Teachers Association, debate Proposition 32.

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Proposition 32 has become the most hotly contested state ballot measure this election season.

The so-called “Paycheck Protection Initiative” would prohibit unions from using automatic payroll deductions for political purposes. Although language in the measure includes similar restrictions on corporations, some say Prop 32 is meant to restrict the political influence of unions in California.

But Chris Cate, vice president of the Prop 32-supporting San Diego Taxpayers Association, told KPBS the measure also prohibits payroll deductions by corporations or government contractors.

He said a report by Roll Call from 2010 shows more than 100,000 workers have some of their wages deducted to support their corporation’s political contributions. However, that number includes workers nationwide, not just in California.

It is legal to deduct from employees’ paychecks to support political contributions, as long as every employee gives their approval, Cate said.

He pointed out the measure also prohibits government contractor contributions to elected officials.

However, the “No” side points out business Super PACs and “thousands of big businesses” are exempted from the measure’s provisions.

Jim Groth, a Chula Vista teacher and member of the board of directors of the Prop 32-opposing California Teachers Association, told KPBS corporations outspend unions 15-to-1 in political contributions.

“This is really an attack on the middle class, it’s an attack trying to silence to middle class,” Groth said. “It is putting corporate interests first.”

But Cate said if passed, Prop 32 would prevent the “last minute deals we always see in Sacramento,” where, he said, unions buy key votes.

“It’s obvious the status quo is not working in Sacramento,” he said. “The other side is not offering the types of reforms we need in Sacramento.”

Groth said union members can choose whether to belong to a union, and if they do belong, they can still opt out of political contributions.

“What they have to do is fill out within CTA (California Teachers Association), you fill out one form, one card, and that takes care of it,” he said.

He said despite the proposition’s “paycheck protection” name, it was not initiated by unions to protect their paychecks.

“This proposition is coming from millionaires and billionaires who have exempted themselves from this Proposition 32 so they can write the rules in Sacramento and they can continue with what they’re interested in,” he said.

Cate said it’s “patently false” that union members can choose whether to be in a union. He also said there are “no exemptions” in this bill.

He said the Sacramento Bee has said the measure goes as far as is constitutionally allowed to limit union and corporate contributions.

Groth said unions are important to issues like class size reduction, education budgets and patient loads for nurses.

More than $100 million has been spent on the measure—$68.8 from the “No on 32” campaign donations, mostly from unions, and $59.4 million from the “Yes on 32” campaign.

John Ortiz, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, told KPBS some of that “Yes” money may be connected to Tea Party funders David and Charles Koch. The largest "Yes" donor, Charles Munger, Jr., is the brother of Molly Munger, who is behind Proposition 38.

The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows 53 percent of California voters oppose Prop 32, while 39 percent support it.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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