One, two, three: November ballot gets instantly longer

9:26 AM, Jun 21, 2012   |    comments
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California's November 6 ballot grew three initiatives longer within a matter of minutes Wednesday evening, led by the official qualification of Governor Jerry Brown's measure to temporarily raise taxes to help balance the state budget.

And make no mistake, all three are political heavyweights in the making -- each with the resources to run multi-million dollar fall campaigns.

Brown's temporary income and sales tax hike is undoubtedly the marquee measure of the November ballot, mainly because its passage is seen as crucial to the governor's blueprint for California and... perhaps... his political legacy.

The other two are contrasting visions of how to finance what many voters, at first blush, may see as worthy causes.

Civil rights attorney Molly Munger's initiative will ask voters whether to temporarily raise income taxes on virtually all categories of taxpayers, with the money earmarked for K-12 schools.  Meantime, hedge fund manager Tom Steyer qualified his initiative to roll back a corporate tax break enacted in 2009, with the resulting extra revenue designated first to clean energy projects and later to helping balance the state budget.

Munger and Steyer are both independently wealthy and have been the driving financial forces behind getting their initiatives on the ballot.  Munger, of Pasadena, has already written checks totaling $8.28 million and has vowed to spend "whatever it takes" to win; Steyer, of San Francisco, has already written a check of $20 million for the campaign ahead.

Political watchers will spend a lot of time observing the knife fight between the Brown and Munger camps.  The governor successfully convinced another potential tax initiative rival to stand down earlier this year, but Munger was unswayed -- even though public polls show her proposal starts off with significant political problems.

Two additional measures could still qualify for the November ballot, and one in particular seems to have been oddly skipped over in Wednesday evening's announcement.  The initiative to make a number of small and large changes to local and state governance, written by the bipartisan think tank California Forward, is still having its signatures verified.

That's true even though the organization's political action committee submitted its signatures before Gov. Brown submitted his in several counties -- including the big kahuna of Los Angeles.  The general practice of local elections officials is to verify signatures on initiatives in the order in which they came in the door, not to leapfrog over proposals.

Another measure, to impose new statewide oversight of health insurance rates, appears to be in a tight squeeze to qualify for the November ballot by the so-called 'random sample' method.  If all of its signatures need to be verified, it would come too late for next week's deadline -- and even a qualified initiative at that point goes to the November 2014 ballot.

The November ballot now stands at eleven measures, although most Capitol observers believe the one legislative proposal will be yanked: the $11 billion water bond that was originally slated for the November 2010 ballot.  Both Gov. Brown and legislative leaders have said they're leery of asking the voters to borrow so much money at the same those voters will be considering a major change in taxes.

Or three, as we now know.

An earlier version of this story stated that the health insurance initiative would be placed on the June 2014 ballot.  But as an eagle eyed reader noted, initiatives now only appear on fall ballots, thanks to a law signed in 2011 by Gov. Brown.  The relevant sentence has been modified.


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