The California Legislature is not in session.
The fight started on Twitter.
It continued this week with a Central Valley assemblywoman bankrolling thousands of robocalls asking San Francisco Republican voters not to elect state Sen. Leland Yee as their mayor.
Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, said she paid about $600 out of her own pocket to send more than 4,000 Sunday night robocalls that do not support any mayoral candidate but ask San Franciscans to reject Yee, a Democrat.
Specifically, the robocall says:
“This is Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen asking you to vote for someone other than Sen. Leland Yee for mayor. In a time when we need reform, Yee says he wants to release his state office budget but the Rules Committee won’t let him.
“I released my office budget because the money belongs to taxpayers. True leaders do the right thing despite bureaucratic red tape. If you’re looking for a real reformer for mayor, vote for someone other than Leland Yee.”
The robocall ends by saying it was paid for by Kristin Olsen for Assembly 2012. But Olsen, in an interview, said that claim was incorrect and that she paid for the robocall personally.
Occupy Wall Street protesters may be long gone by November 2012, but labor leaders are hoping that voters’ anger toward the wealthy won’t be going anywhere as the election season unfolds.
For that reason, the California Federation of Teachers and a coalition of liberal allies are moving forward with plans to place a millionaires tax measure on the ballot next year. Millionaires, in this case, are defined as individuals whose annual income is $1 million or more.
Josh Pechthalt, the president of the 100,000-member teachers union, said the monthlong protests that have spread around the globe have bolstered his group’s plan to tax millionaires, which has been in the works since the beginning of the year.
He’s hoping to sell other labor groups and Gov. Jerry Brown on the plan to boost tax revenues for schools, colleges, social services and other programs, but he says his group will move ahead without them if they’re not ready to catch the tax-the-rich wave.
“With the Occupy Wall Street actions, the American public is being educated on the disparity that has gotten so profound, the crisis that has gotten so bad,” Pechthalt said. “We’re committed to this and we want to convince others it’s much needed and the right time to do it.”
The teachers union can expect a big, expensive fight if it continues its push to tax the wealthy, said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
“In the polling we see, there is no appetite for additional taxes of any kind,” Coupal said. “Labor groups aren’t going to ask me for permission, and they can do what they want. But they’ve got an uphill fight. The trend is toward fiscal conservatism.”
Coupal called the Occupy Wall Street protesters a “bunch of trust fund babies who need a reason to protest,” adding that labor groups are fueling the rallies.
The 1 percent of the American population being targeted by protests pay 40 percent of U.S. income taxes, and the top 10 percent pay 70 percent of taxes, said Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
“At what level is the right level when they are already paying most of the taxes?” Guardino asked. “I’m also worried about divisive talk that pits Americans against Americans rather than pulling us together.”
California voters have approved a millionaire’s tax before: in 2004, they voted for a 1 percent surcharge on the income of millionaires to fund mental health programs.
The political arm of the teachers federation earlier this month gave the OK to move ahead with a millionaires tax, though they haven’t determined yet how big of an increase they would seek.
Whether the tax rate on millionaires’ income would jump from the current 9.3 percent to 11 or 13 percent, the state would get billions in new revenues, going directly into specified services such as schools, colleges, health care, social services and parks, rather than into the general fund budget, Pechthalt said.
The Occupy movement in some locales is growing in numbers and energy, but the Occupy San Diego movement seems to have dwindled.
At noon Monday, only a few dozen protesters remained in the plaza behind City Hall, intermingled with the homeless. Several police officers watched the smallish crowd.
On Friday, police had forcibly removed tents, tarps and other structures from the plaza. Two men were arrested on suspicion of interfering with police.
Police have said the protesters can stay in the plaza but that their property, except for bedrolls, had to be removed because it violated a municipal ordinance about blocking public access.
Several hundred protesters took part in a downtown march Saturday. But by noon Monday only a few remained in the plaza.