Special Election: How We Got Here

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, April 20, 2009

Here’s the short answer for why we’re going to the polls again:  Unfinished budget business. 
“seeing no further debate, clerk will open the roll….all those vote who desire to vote….fade out”
In the pre-dawn hours this past February, lawmakers voted to approve a contentious 42 billion dollar spending plan.  As part of it, they put six measures on the ballot.  They’ll change the budget process, increase your taxes and allow for more state borrowing.  If the propositions pass, they’ll seal the budget deal.  If not, they’ll punch a multi-billion dollar hole in it.  That’s what has Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg worried: 
Steinberg:  “We are going to need the additional revenue over the course of the next couple of years.”
The state’s non-partisan legislative analyst predicts the state budget is already about eight billion dollars out-of-balance.  But Steinberg says he thinks lawmakers can triage their way through that with stimulus funds and cuts.  However, if the measures on May’s ballot fail, the deficit is expected to go up by about 6 billion more.  Steinberg says that’s a lot harder to stomach: 
Steinberg: “If the deficit rises to 12,13,14,15 billion dollars in part because we don’t prevail on May the 19th, then of course the cuts will have to be that much deeper.”
Here’s what’s on the ballot:  Prop 1A would limit future state spending and extend sales, car and income tax hikes.  Prop. 1B would increase education funding.  Prop. 1C would allow the state to borrow billions against the lottery.  1D and 1E would shift money from programs for early childhood education and mental health to help balance the budget.  And 1F would ban pay hikes for lawmakers when there’s a state deficit: 
Jeffries: “I think that’s part of the criticism that the voters could have today is to say, you’re asking us to do your job.  What are we paying you for?” 
Republican Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries says lawmakers passed the buck by putting these measures before voters: 
Jeffries: “that’s what a no vote says.  It tells the legislature it’s your responsibility to make government live within its means.”
The most recent Public Policy Institute of California poll shows most of the ballot measures do not have a majority of voters’ support.  Only prop. 1F – the one about lawmakers’ pay – has wide approval.   The PPIC’s Mark Baldassare says he’s not surprised: 
Baldassare: “Well I think that one of the reasons that the ballot measures are not getting strong support at the outset is because we see the Governor and the legislature really in record territory in terms of low approval ratings.
According to that same poll, about a third of likely voters approve of the Governor.  And only eleven percent approve of the legislature.  Baldassare says that means the Governor and lawmakers may not be able to persuade voters to support the measures.  That’s something the opposition is counting on. The Secretary of State’s Office estimates the special election may cost the already cash-strapped state between 60 and 100 million dollars.