As for the rest of the ballot …
Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger appears on the verge of a remarkable political comeback. A year ago, he threw his weight behind a series of ballot initiatives that failed spectacularly. His approval ratings plummeted, and he appeared to be an easy mark for the Democrats this season.
Instead, Schwarzenegger has steered his administration a little to the left and has taken advantage of his personal popularity to maintain a large lead in the polls over Democratic challenger Phil Angelides, the state treasurer.
Schwarzenegger has made a couple of high-profile moves to the left since the initiatives failed, freeing more money for the schools, signing an increase in the minimum wage and taking the lead in an initiative to combat global warming.
California is essentially a Democratic state. Since 1992, there have been 32 statewide votes (including races for president and the U.S. Senate), and Democrats have won 24 of them. On the other hand, governor’s races are a different breed. In addition to California, ultra-blue states New York and Massachusetts have Republican governors, while red strongholds such as Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming have Democrats in their state houses.
Angelides, who began the race with low name recognition, has had difficulty generating the kind of enthusiasm and financial support that the forces working against last year’s initiatives enjoyed. It hasn’t helped that some prominent Hollywood donors who typically throw their money to Democrats have sided with Schwarzenegger.
In their ads, the Democrats have tried to tie Schwarzenegger to President Bush and to question the governor’s trustworthiness. One ad uses footage of Schwarzenegger, at the time he announced he would run for governor, saying he didn’t need to accept donations from special interests because of his personal wealth. It points out that Schwarzenegger has since raised more money than any of his predecessors.
During the candidates’ only debate, money matters dominated. Schwarzenegger echoed the theme of his ads, saying that Angelides intended to seek large tax increases. Angelides maintained that he intended to raise taxes only on the wealthy and corporations and that he would seek to cut taxes for those making less than $100,000.
Angelides, meanwhile, has emphasized the affordability of higher education, criticizing the governor for the sharp increases in tuition and fees at state universities. He said his tax proposals were intended to address that problem, in addition to keeping the state’s budget in balance without further borrowing.
On one of the state’s hot-button issues, immigration, the two are largely in agreement. Both favor the “path to citizenship” approach advanced by President Bush, and both oppose construction of a border wall.
That stand, along with his pro-choice stance, general support for gay rights and the presence of Democrats in prominent staff positions, have made many Christian conservatives wary of Schwarzenegger. The governor has tried to find areas of agreement with the more conservative elements in his party, opposing June’s preschool ballot initiative, vetoing a gay-marriage bill and emphasizing his support for use of National Guard troops at the border.
Two of the state’s most widely known politicians are running for an office with virtually no power. The lieutenant governor sits on boards and commissions and serves as a governor-in-waiting but does have the bully pulpit.
Republican Tom McClintock is a veteran legislator who has failed in three bids for statewide office. He is a favorite of hard-line conservatives and stayed in the special election for governor despite Republican pressure to cede the field to Arnold Schwarzenegger. McClintock disagrees with Schwarzenegger on most social issues, opposing abortion, gay rights and most gun-control measures. He also takes a harder line on illegal immigration and supports school vouchers.
John Garamendi also was in the running for governor in 2003 but dropped out. He has twice failed to win Democratic primaries for statewide office but has served two separate terms as insurance commissioner and was a deputy interior secretary in the Clinton administration. He has tried to highlight McClintock’s conservative stances on social issues and has also emphasized his support for universal health care. McClintock said he favors expanding health-care coverage through tax credits.
Garamendi emphasizes environmental issues, although one of the areas in which McClintock parts from his conservative base is his opposition to offshore oil drilling.
It’s a given that Democrat Jerry Brown will be the main issue in any race in which he is involved. From his two terms as governor to his three presidential runs to his current position as mayor of Oakland, Brown is a widely known and polarizing figure. Add a strongly conservative opponent in Republican State Sen. Charles Poochigian, of Fresno, and it isn’t a surprise that this has turned into the most hotly contested—some would say nastiest—race in the state.
At their recent debate, Brown pulled out a .50-caliber bullet to illustrate Poochigian’s opposition to banning such ammunition. Poochigian countered with photos of a serial killer’s victims to highlight Brown’s opposition to capital punishment. In the same debate, Poochigian complained that Brown was the first person to ever call him a liar. Poochigian’s television ads also state that Brown “may be the least qualified person in California to be attorney general.”
One of the key issues has been Brown’s tenure in Oakland. Poochigian points to a sharp rise in murder, but Brown says overall crime is down. Brown has said that, despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, he will follow the law and the will of the state’s voters. Poochigian has said virtually the same in regard to abortion, which he opposes.
Poochigian’s opposition to most gun-control measures is seen as a primary reason why Brown has the advantage in receiving endorsements from law enforcement organizations.
Secretary of state
The scope of this office is narrow—primarily it is the overseer of state elections—but this race may provide the starkest choice on the ballot. On the two major issues affecting elections, Republican incumbent Bruce McPherson and Democratic challenger Debra Bowen are on opposite sides.
Bowen advocates the elimination of electronic voting systems, at least until they can be proven to be tamper-proof. McPherson, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Schwarzenegger after Democrat Kevin Shelley resigned, said the state’s decision to require paper verification is enough of a safeguard.
The candidates also disagree on voter identification. McPherson would like California to follow the lead of other states that require a photo ID at the polls. Bowen has said such a requirement is unconstitutional and that verification such as a utility bill would be sufficient.
Both candidates are veterans of the state Legislature, McPherson for 11 years and Bowen for 14. This is McPherson’s second run at statewide office, having lost to Cruz Bustamante in a bid to become lieutenant governor. Both advocate making the secretary of state office nonpartisan, although Bowen goes further, saying the secretary should be forbidden from taking a public position on any initiative or election on the ballot.
It wasn’t long ago that Cruz Bustamante was a rising star, the highest-ranking Latino politician in the nation when he was elected lieutenant governor in 1998. However, Bustamante alienated many Democrats when he decided to run for governor as Gray Davis was facing a recall. Bustamante was decisively defeated and faces a tough election for this post.
His acceptance of contributions from insurance companies has become a key issue, although Bustamante quickly announced he would return the money. On policy, Bustamante said he wants to expand the jurisdiction of the insurance commissioner, providing more regulation for HMOs. He is an advocate of a single-payer universal health-care system.
Republican Steve Poizner is a high-tech entrepreneur who has failed in only two ventures into electoral politics. He was defeated for a state Assembly race in 2004 and managed the unsuccessful campaign for Proposition 77 (Schwarzenegger’s 2005 redistricting amendment).
His current campaign received a major boost with the endorsement by consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfeld, the author of the landmark Prop. 103 (insurance reform). Poizner also has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury-News, papers that were supportive of Democratic Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi.
Poizner does not support Bustamante’s plan to expand the purview of the office. He does agree with Bustamante and Garamendi that car-insurance rates should be based on driving record and not residence.
The race to become California’s top fiscal officer features two potential future political heavyweights, the two youngest major-party nominees on the statewide ballot.
Republican Tony Strickland, 36, is a former state assemblyman, and Democrat John Chiang, 44, is the chairman of the state Board of Equalization. Both emphasize the need for the state to reclaim revenue by cutting down on waste and fraud.
While in the Assembly, Strickland made news by suing then-Gov. Gray Davis seeking disclosure of Davis’ deals with energy companies. Chiang, a former tax-law specialist for the Internal Revenue Service, emphasizes the need to go after unpaid taxes and points to his expertise in tax law as a primary qualification.
The two take opposite sides on the high-profile initiatives, propositions 86 and 87. Strickland opposes both, saying that Prop. 87 would lead to higher gas prices. In the past, Strickland has suggested repealing all gas taxes. Chiang supports both measures.
Another area of disagreement is offshore oil drilling. Chiang emphasizes his opposition to all new drilling, but Strickland has said he wouldn’t rule it out. The controller sits on the board that grants oil leases.
Although the state treasurer has relatively little power, with more narrowly defined authority than the controller, the office has been held by high-profile politicians in recent years. Kathleen Brown and Phil Angelides launched bids for governor from this office, and Matt Fong ran for a U.S. Senate seat.
Democrat Bill Lockyer is being term-limited out of his job as attorney general, where he has certainly sought a high profile. However, Lockyer would be 69 at the end of a possible term as treasurer and has said he does not intend to run for higher office. Republican Claude Parrish’s only elected position has been on the Board of Equalization.
As attorney general, Lockyer made a splash with litigation against the energy companies (over possible price-fixing during the state’s energy crisis), automakers (over alleged culpability in global warming) and the Bush administration (over fuel-efficiency standards and logging national forests). As treasurer, his primary power would be in managing the state’s investments, and he has said he would like California to put more money in green technology.
Parrish, who is lagging well behind in financing and name recognition, said the state has overextended itself and that the treasurer must take the lead in opposing most new bond measures. He also says the state must invest more of its money with California-based brokers instead of Wall Street.
It is an odd fact of life that California, a state with more residents than the smallest 21 states combined, has largely been a spectator in recent presidential and U.S. Senate races. This year’s race may set the new standard in invisibility.
Republican challenger Richard Mountjoy does not have the funding to mount a serious campaign, and Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who has maintained a lead of 20 or more points for most of the year, doesn’t have the need.
Mountjoy got the nomination essentially because he was the only who wanted it. He is a straight-line conservative, an unequivocal opponent of abortion and gun control, a strong supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war and one of the driving forces behind Proposition 187, which would have denied services to illegal immigrants. The measure was passed but has never been implemented after a court challenge.
Feinstein hasn’t been seriously challenged in her two previous re-election bids. Much of the criticism during her tenure has come from the left. She voted to authorize the Iraq war, voted for the first round of Bush tax cuts, the Bush Medicare prescription bill and has been a strong proponent of the anti-flag-burning constitutional amendment.
On the other hand, she has voted consistently with the liberal wing of the Democratic party on matters of abortion rights and gun control. She also voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and voted to support the filibuster against Samuel Alito.
(Transportation Funding Protection Legislative Constitutional Amendment)
A follow-up to Proposition 42, passed by voters in 2002, this would make it more difficult to use funds from gas taxes for nontransportation matters. Prop. 42 mandated the transfer of revenues from the General Fund to the Transportation Investment Fund but allowed for a suspension if the state faced fiscal difficulties. That suspension has been applied twice in the past four years.
This proposition would prohibit more than two suspensions in a 10-year period and shorten the time required to repay the revenues. Those in favor maintain that the spirit of Prop. 42 has been violated and that money supposed to be reserved for transportation improvements have gone elsewhere. Proponents maintain that the two suspensions already approved have diverted $2.5 billion in gas taxes for nontransportation matters.
Those opposed, led by Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Jackie Goldberg, argue that the requirements for suspension under Prop. 42 are stringent enough and that, without the ability to borrow internally, cuts to education and health programs would be devastating. Currently, a two-thirds vote of both houses and the governor’s signature are required to borrow the money. The money also must be repaid, but with a longer timeframe than under Prop. 1A.
(Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality and Port Security Bond Act)
Propositions 1A through 1E are billed by proponents as the Plan to Rebuild California. While 1A proposes a change in state law, the remaining propositions are bond issues.
Of those, 1B is by far the largest, authorizing the sale of nearly $20 billion in bonds to fund transportation and security improvements. More than half of the money would go toward freeway improvements, with smaller amounts going toward public transportation and port security.
The legislative analyst estimates that the repayment of these bonds would total about $39 billion over 30 years, or about $1.3 billion per year. Opponents and proponents have lined up in a manner typical of bond issues. The most visible opponent is the California Taxpayers Protection Committee, a largely Republican group that is a political descendent of the Howard Jarvis Prop. 13 movement.
(Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act)
The smallest of the four bond issues, this would authorize the sale of $2.85 billion in bonds with the revenues directed to a variety of housing-related purposes. Although proponents emphasize shelter for homeless, seniors and victims of domestic violence, the largest chunk of money ($850 million) would go toward general urban development projects, including parks, transportation and environmental cleanup.
The legislative analyst estimates that repayment would amount to about $204 million per year.
Proponents, led by Habitat for Humanity and American Association for Retired Persons, point to shortages of shelters and maintain that the development would create jobs.
Unlike the other bond measures, 1C opponents have a specific organization and Web site, headed by Chuck DeVore, a Republican assemblyman from Orange County. In addition to opposing bond measures in principle, DeVore argues that Prop. 1C would increase available housing in the state by less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
(Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act)
The second-largest of the bond measures, 1D would authorize the sale of $10.416 billion in bonds, with revenues directed to projects covering both K-12 schools and public colleges and universities. The legislative analyst estimates an annual repayment cost of about $680 million.
Distribution of the revenues between K-12 and higher education corresponds to the numbers of students, with about two-thirds going to K-12. The largest allotment, about one-third of the total funds, would go toward modernizing existing K-12 facilities. Within the college and university allotment, half would go toward community college improvement and construction.
Both major-party candidates for governor have endorsed the measure. Opponents focus on two provisions: First, the proposition requires districts to pay 40 percent of modernization and 50 percent of new-construction costs, and, second, it is too far-reaching, including funds for items such as new vocational-education programs and energy-efficiency incentives. The opponents maintain that the local contribution requirement would effectively keep poorer districts from benefiting from the passage of 1D.
(Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act)
This would authorize the sale of $4.09 billion in bonds, directing the revenues to the repair and improvement of the flood-control infrastructure, primarily in the Central Valley. The system includes, at its northern tip, Chico. The legislative analyst estimates an annual repayment cost of about $266 million but adds that it may cost the state more because some property could be shifted to a tax-exempt status.
Two years ago, levee repair would not have been a high-profile issue for most Californians, but Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees in and around New Orleans changed that. In addition to the potential for a major disaster, proponents also emphasize the need for infrastructure improvements to maintain a supply of safe drinking water.
Opponents acknowledge the need for the results but question the method. They maintain that the levee repair should be a federal responsibility.
(Sex Offenders. Sexually Violent Predators. Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring.)
Known as Jessica’s Law (after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered), Prop. 83 includes a series of provisions that increase punishment for sex offenses and broaden the definition of those subject to its provisions. It provides longer and more definite prison terms, the elimination of probation and early-release credits for some offenses, lifetime monitoring for felony sex offenders and a prohibition on registered sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
It also changes possession of child pornography from a misdemeanor to a felony; makes more offenders eligible for classification as sexually violent predators, subjecting them to commitment to a mental hospital; and changes the definition of aggravated sexual assault on a child. Currently, offenders must be 10 years older than the victim to be charged. That would be reduced to seven years.
The proposition is supported by both major candidates for governor and most major law enforcement officials. It has enjoyed overwhelming support in opinion polls.
The residence restriction has emerged as the most controversial provision. Opponents say offenders in urban areas will have no choice but to move to more rural areas, where law enforcement is less able to deal with them, or to drop out of sight. After Iowa passed a similar law, a county sheriff in Iowa was quoted by San Francisco television station KTVU as saying the law was “a nightmare,” estimating that he used to know where 90 percent of the offenders were and now “I’m lucky to know where 50 to 55 percent are.”
(Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control, Natural Resource Protection, Park Improvements.)
The only bond measure that isn’t under the umbrella of the Rebuild California plan, this would authorize the sale of $5.388 billion worth of bonds to fund a wide variety of projects involving water management, flood control, climate-change reduction, and forest and wildlife conservation. Taken together, this may be the state’s largest parks and water bond measure in history, but because so many projects are involved, the pie is cut into small pieces.
Politically, Prop. 84 is in a strange position. Endorsed by both major candidates for governor and both California senators, it even manages to bring together unlikely allies such as the state Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club. However, its prospects for success are iffy, largely because voters are becoming increasingly wary of passing large bond measures and because it is competing against the Rebuild California package. In the unlikely event that all five bond measures passed, the annual repayment cost, according to the legislative analyst, would be nearly $3 billion.
Proponents emphasize the clean-water projects in the measure. Opponents maintain that everyone in the state will be asked to pay for localized projects. They also argue that some of the projects involved in this measure would be covered by Prop. 1E.
(Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy)
A year ago, Prop. 73, which is nearly identical to this proposition, was defeated by a fairly narrow margin. Many proponents speculated that it was caught in the tide of “no” votes for the series of reforms that were being promoted by Gov. Schwarzenegger, and they decided to make a second attempt.
The major provisions are the same: Notification must be given by a physician to the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours before an abortion. There is no requirement for parental consent. Again, there is a provision for a minor to get a waiver for the requirement from a court by demonstrating that she is mature and well-informed or that there are circumstances that make notification against the minor’s interest.
One significant change is that, under the new proposition, parents would be allowed to provide a waiver ahead of time.
Proponents emphasize safety, arguing that a high percentage of minors receiving abortions were impregnated by adults. Because of that, they argue that many of those girls are pressured to get abortions by men facing legal consequences.
Opponents also talk about safety. Their primary argument is that, in healthy families, the notification requirement would be moot because the minor and parent would already have discussed it and that, in unhealthy families, it could be dangerous. Opponents argue that in dysfunctional families, the minors would delay medical care, seek abortions outside the established system or seek abortions out of state.
(Tax on Cigarettes)
The premise of this proposition appears simple. Drastically raise the tax on cigarettes and provide two benefits: an overall reduction in smoking and an injection of revenue for hospital emergency care and children’s health insurance.
However, much of the debate about the proposition centers on fine-print issues and unintended consequences. Opponents have built much of their argument around a provision that allows hospitals to share information. This is being portrayed as a scheme to allow for collusion and price-fixing. Politically, it’s a battle between two of the least popular groups in the state: tobacco companies and HMOs.
Many law-enforcement agencies are also opposing the measure for another reason. The tax hike would be so severe—$2.60 per pack on top of the 87 cents currently in place—that many fear a rise in black-market cigarette sales. The Tax Foundation pointed to a study in New York City showing that, following a sharp rise in cigarette taxes there, sales dropped sharply in the city but smoking fell only marginally. The implication was that people were finding other ways to purchase cigarettes, either by physically going elsewhere to buy or purchasing by mail or through the Internet.
California voters have approved two major tobacco taxes before, but the concurrent goals of revenue enhancement and a reduction in smoking are inherently contradictory. As such, part of the revenues from this proposition would go toward a “backfill” of programs funded by 1998’s Prop. 10. The reason? The legislative analyst assumes those programs’ funding would be reduced by an anticipated reduction in tobacco sales.
(Alternative Energy. Research, Production, Incentives. Tax on California Oil Producers.)
This is the main event on the list of propositions, at least in terms of the media campaigns. Opponents, funded largely by the oil companies, were on the air early and often. Proponents have recently answered by bringing the heavy hitters. Former President Bill Clinton made personal appearances in the state on behalf of Prop. 87, and proponents began airing ads featuring Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.
Prop. 87 would tax California oil producers to fund $4 billion in programs to promote alternative energy sources. The tax would end once the $4 billion mark was reached. By far the biggest share of the revenue, 57.5 percent, would go toward incentives, purchase of alternative-energy vehicles and creation of alternative energy infrastructure. Another 26.75 percent would go toward research grants in alternative energy.
The debate centers on the likely effect of such a tax. Proponents maintain that Prop. 87 forbids the oil companies from passing their increased tax to consumers in the form of higher prices, but opponents maintain that such a provision is unenforceable. Proponents argue that the tax would reduce dependence on foreign oil; opponents say the opposite is true.
According to the legislative analyst, California currently supplies 37 percent of its demand, with 42 percent coming from foreign sources and the remaining 21 percent from other domestic pumping.
(Education Funding. Real Property Parcel Tax.)
Call this one “dead proposition walking.”
Although Prop. 88 was competitive in statewide polling through the late summer, the primary financial backers of the measure pulled out in September, choosing to concentrate instead on Prop. 1E.
Prop. 88 would have created a new class of tax, tacking $50 a year on each parcel of land. Opponents say this would be the first statewide property tax in California since 1910. The money from the tax would go toward the schools, with a primary emphasis on relieving overcrowding.
The legislative analyst estimated that the tax would raise $450 million a year but that some of those revenues would be offset by losses in state income-tax revenues due to property-related deductions. There also would be exemptions for senior and disabled property owners.
Politically, the measure appeared to be doomed by opposition from education interests, including teachers’ unions and the state PTA. Meanwhile, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association attacked the measure as an end run around Prop. 13 provisions.
(Political Campaigns. Public Financing. Corporate Tax Increase. Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Limits.)
Although this measure, if passed, could represent the most significant change on the ballot, it has been one of the least visible during the campaign season. The main feature is a hike on taxes on corporations and financial institutions with the revenues directed to partial public financing of state elections.
It would remain a partial public system because of three exceptions. First, candidates could opt out entirely, although individual contributions would be further limited and publicly financed candidates would get additional money if a private candidate outspent the public limits. Second, candidates could still receive private donations for start-up costs, and that money could be spent up until 90 days before the primary. Finally, candidates could still receive money from the political parties.
Another provision would, for the first time, put limits on contributions and spending for ballot initiatives.
Politically, this is a classic union vs. corporation battle. Opponents describe the measure as welfare for politicians, arguing that the public shouldn’t have to pay for candidates’ attack ads. Proponents maintain that the public will pay more in the long run if lobbyists and corporations continue to have the same level of influence on public policy.
Behind those arguments is the potential fate of the measure in the courts. If passed, it would certainly be challenged, and similar limits on contributions and spending have had difficulty clearing the free-speech hurdle.
(Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property.)
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a city in Connecticut could use eminent domain (taking private property for public use with compensation) to allow for private development of land that served the public good. The backlash of that decision led to this measure.
The most popular feature, although one that would likely face a court challenge, would prohibit the state from taking property and transferring it to private development. The only way a private enterprise could take over such property is for public use, such as construction of a toll road. Aside from building parks, schools or other public facilities, the only other circumstances under which the government could take property would be to correct a public nuisance or to deal with an emergency.
Some provisions, however, are more controversial.
Much of the measure is devoted to government compensation for loss of value. Opponents argue that the language in these provisions is so vague that it could force the government to compensate businesses for losses that result from nonproperty regulation, such as restrictions on telemarketing.
The measure also is opposed by the major environmental groups in the state, which fear that the government will avoid regulating businesses if the cost of compensation becomes too steep. Proponents maintain that environmental regulation would be protected by an exemption for regulations that protect health and safety.
Passage of Prop. 90 could have an impact on the implementation of the Rebuild California package of bond measures.