"Protect Priorities," Says First TV Ad

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With the statewide special election now less than five weeks away, the first TV ad of the campaign to pass the budget-related measures is out.

And given its backers, it's not surprising which measures it promotes.

The ad comes from the California Teachers Association, through their campaign in support of Proposition 1A and Proposition 1B. CTA has actually endorsed all six propositions that were part of the February budget deal, but is clearly focusing on the two that ensure an additional $9 billion in public school funding over the next few years.

Now, to the ad itself...

The ad says Prop 1A will control "overall state spending" and will prevent $16 billion in cuts to "education, police, and health care." The latter clearly is another way of looking at the tax increases that are extended if the measure passes.

Meantime, the phrase "overall state spending" is an interesting choice. What voters may not know is that the Prop 1A spending cap wouldn't directly control K-12 education spending; in fact, one of the criticisms of the measure is that its avoidance of any changes to the voter-approved Proposition 98 school finance formula means that Prop 1A may end up squeezing what dollars are left (after funding schools), dollars for everything from higher education to social service programs.

On Prop 1B, the 30 second pitch never explicitly says that this measure will only go into effect if Prop 1A is also approved, but it clearly links the two measures through both the script and visuals (the subtle line drawn between images).

The ad says 1B ensures "paying back" of money cut from education in recent years... and says that will happen "when the economy improves."

In reality, the measure requires that the money in question will begin being paid to schools in 2011, regardless of economic conditions in California. As to whether the $9 billion (an amount never mentioned in the ad) is money owed to schools... or not... well, that was the subject of a healthy debate earlier this year; the ad clearly says it is. The official ballot summary of 1B calls the money "supplemental."

This isn't likely to be the last we'll hear from the CTA. As arguably the most powerful interest group in California campaigns over the last decade, they've got substantial resources to spend on a statewide TV ad blitz. They've already committed more than $5 million to this campaign... easily the single largest player, to date.

Back to the ad... the best line may be the first one we hear in it: "The California budget. A total mess, and we all know it."

It feels safe to say that no one can argue about the validity of that one.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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